Never before have I heard vocals quite like Amber Riley's on a theatre stage. Her lustrous voice shines through as Effie, one of three teenage Afro-American girls who form the girl group The Dreams. The girls are waiting for their one big break and so enters Curtis (Joe Aaron Reid) with a plan to propel them into stardom. But the opportunity that starts out as too good to be true, and sees the girls succeed beyond their wildest dreams, soon sees Effie kicked out of the group with a broken heart. Dreamgirls takes us beyond the glitz and glamour of the stage to the nitty gritty of economic gain, greed and betrayal that can accompany fame. And though there is clearly a lot of other talent in the show; Tyrone Huntley as CC, Effie’s songwriting brother and Adam J Bernard as an impressive Jimmy; I found myself anxiously awaiting her return to the stage all throughout her absence. There is laughter and many tears, partly due to the storyline but mostly to the power of the vocals belting out just a few yards from your seat. Have a tissue at the ready for Riley’s big number just before the intermission and the finale.
I loved Jennifer Hudson’s voice in the 2006 movie and was a little unsure how I’d take to the stage version of Effie but there was not a shadow of disappointment in the show. Well, except the fact I couldn’t get up and dance / sing along with the cast.