A bling musical with soul

2011-03-18 16:10

There was a buzz of excitement as the lights went down. After all the hype and all the promises that this was the biggest musical event ever, the moment of truth had arrived. With the opening chords, the buzz lifted to a crescendo then, with the proverbial ice broken, the audience could relax into the show.

But the incredible wardrobe and the state-of-the-art staging aside, this is a show about strong vocal performances and the young, largely theatrically untested, cast deliver in spades.

The five giant LCD screens and a Perspex table and chairs are the only props, so it’s down to the clothes they wear and the songs they sing to move along the narrative about taking soul to the top of the pop charts in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lindiwe Bungane heads the cast as Effie White. Her powerful voice will shake you in your boots, especially her rendition of the musical’s showstopper And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going, which brought the house down on opening night.

The other two Dreamettes are Tracy Lee Oliver and Candida Mosoma. Oliver fronts most of the ensemble musical numbers and lends her elegant singing voice to the bulk of the songs.

Mosoma is Lorelle, the peacemaker of the group and the only one with an impressive musical résumé behind her.

Her chance to shine solo comes in the second act and she kills it, reminding anyone who might have forgotten just how incredible her pipes are (remember her in Jesus Christ Superstar?).

The most jaw-dropping performance of the night though came from Bjorn Blignault as James Thunder Early.

He is a revelation, tapping what must be an ocean of talent to produce a superenergetic, soul-soaked, one-man juggernaut of a performance.

Providing much of the humour of the piece, he flings himself hither and yon, bouncing up and down on his knees, jiving into the splits and sporting some of the loudest outfits of the night. It’s exhilarating to watch.

Aubrey Poo, another musical stalwart, is Curtis, the car salesman turned music industry hustler.

He gives a solid performance, lending his smooth vocals to the mix.

His showpiece is Steppin’ to the Bad Side, which features some kickass choreography delivered with slick precision. He also nails the beautiful ballad When I First Saw You.

It would be easy to wax lyrical about every performance in the show as this is a perfect example of an ensemble piece where everyone carries their load.

The leads are all strong and for Blignault to stand out in this crowd is praise indeed.

For two-and-a-half hours, fans of whizz-bang musical entertainment can sit back and be swept away to a time when harmonies were as well matched as the outfits, when hair was big or bigger, and dresses defined bling before the term was coined.

Dreamgirls will not let you down. You can bet your favourite ’60s song on that.

» Dreamgirls runs at The Teatro at Montecasino until May and then at Cape Town’s Artscape Theatre from June 8. Book at Computicket

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