Dreamgirls At The Alex, Absolutely Sensational

Dreamgirls finally arrived in Birmingham this week at The Alexandra, after a delay caused by Covid 19, and it is so worth the wait. The story of a fictional 1960’s girl group very closely based on Diana Ross and the Supremes is everything you want in a musical – great songs and brilliantly powerful performances, all delivered with the gloss and the glitz of showbusiness. To quote one of the most famous songs from the show, I’m telling you that you must go and see Dreamgirls this Christmas, it is simply sensational.

The Dreamettes, sassy Lorell Robinson, slinky Deena Jones and the powerhouse Effie White dream of musical stardom, and believe winning a talent show may just lead to this. But fate, and one man, Curtis Taylor Jr has other ideas. He hears the Dreamettes and puts himself forward as their manager (Svengali – think Berry Gordy), ensuring they lose the talent competition so they can become a backing band to Jimmy Early, a dynamic singer also on the way to stardom. The girls are renamed The Dreams, and after Jimmy has his first (paid for) hit, Cadillac Car, written by Effie’s brother CC, they are well on their way to stardom. Effie is in a relationship with Curtis, whilst Lorell is the girlfriend of the married Jimmy Early, but when Curtis decides to push The Dreams to their own stardom he opts to push the beautiful Deena to the front of the band, becoming increasingly obsessed with the singer, and side lining Effie in her own band, and in his life.

Dreamgirls is an incredible story of the price of fame, and is a mirror of The Supremes, and how its original singer Florence Ballard was side lined in favour of the photogenic Diana Ross.  It also shows how manager, then husband Berry Gordy ignored other Motown acts (read Jimmy Early) in order to promote his star, who then became his wife. It is a powerful story that pulls no punches and needs powerful performances to match this, and it certainly has them with this knockout cast. Nicole Raquel Dennis as Effie White is unbelievably brilliant, with vocals like I have never heard in theatre, the range and emotion is just spine tingling, and her rendition of the heartbreaking ‘And I’m telling you I’m not going’ absolutely brings the house down and led to a standing ovation at the end of Act 1, something I have never seen in my years reviewing musical theatre. Natalie Kassanga is also wonderful as Deena, with the slinky sensuous vocals that are reminiscent of Diana Ross, she also captures the diva essence that Deena/Diana developed as her personal stardom grows. Paige Peddle is often hilarious as the third Dream, the sassy, sparky Lorell, a pocket rocket who is likeable in her role, but also shows vulnerability in her scenes with Jimmy, the married man who won’t commit to her.

The male cast members are also perfectly cast. Matt Mills is cool and smooth as Curtis Taylor Jr. He plays the role with immense charm, but also with an edge where his ruthlessness shows through. He has great chemistry with both Nicole and Natalie, and his coldness contrasts well with the warmer characters CC and Jimmy. Brandon Lee Sears plays Jimmy with an energy and intensity that brings to mind James Brown, his musical numbers are incredibly performed, and his meltdown scene manages to be both hilarious and heart breaking. Samuel Nicholas is very good as CC White, Effie’s brother who comes to regret his betrayal of his sister, and is a huge part of the redemption story.

The songs are performed with verve and tenacity, and are stone cold classics, with the aforementioned ‘And I’m telling you I’m not going’, the two versions of ‘One night only’ and the beautiful ‘Listen’ as standout moments. The staging is wonderful, costumes and period details are all faithfully recreated, with the theme song Dreamgirls in particular giving all those 1960’s vibes.

Dreamgirls is a supreme piece of musical theatre that is once seen, never forgotten. You need to see it this Christmas.

Show: Dreamgirls

Dates of show at The Alexandra: Tue 6 Dec – Sat 31 Dec 22

Website for tickets:



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