Murfreesboro Center for the Arts (MCA) takes on another bold production with Dreamgirls under the direction of Matthew Hayes Hunter. While it’s normally a big show, MCA masterfully breaks down the set and fits it in their 98-seat theatre.
The story of Effie (Robbyn Vyrgo Daniel), Deena (Ra’Shaun Simon), and Lorrell (Brianna Booker) is one most of us are familiar with but, for purposes of synopsis, bear with me. The show opens as a group of three ladies, going by the name “The Dreamettes” arrive at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to perform at a talent show. They lose the talent show (under questionable circumstances), but Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Bentley Caldwell) a used car salesman who is trying to break into a music manager career convinces them to hire him with the promise of a backup gig singing for Jimmy “Thunder” Early (Gerold Oliver). After much hesitation from Effie, the group’s lead singer, they agree to do it. After they’re a hit, they take their show on the road. Along the way, they go through lots of shifts and changes. Effie falls for Curtis, Lorrell falls for Jimmy, “The Dreamettes” change their name to “The Dreams,” Effie’s diva streak goes south, Curtis is a lying, conniving jerk… Seriously. This is an LGBT paper. We don’t need a synopsis. The movie from 2006 has Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson with Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. If you haven’t seen it yet, go see this production. Here’s why:
The production, while yet again plagued by audio issues worse than when I saw their production of Into The Woods, yet again, they are spot on with exactly what a community theater should be. Effie is magnificently portrayed by rising star Robbyn Vyrgo Daniel and is supported by a cast of characters that make what could have been disastrous, professional and triumphant. The story flowed very well, the movements made sense, the show was immensely entertaining, and, again, everyone was so friendly.
Standouts from the show:
Robbyn Vyrgo Daniel should be of no surprise with her portrayal of the iconic Effie White. She’s obviously going places with her credits in the playbill, and she proves why any time she opens her mouth. She can wail. It’s absolutely incredible, her tone. She’s got the old school soul and a professionalism that made her unflappable. Her performance was very impressive.
Brianna Booker took the role of Lorrell Robinson, the youngest member of The Dreams and often overlooked, Miss Booker made certain the audience paid attention to her. Her scenes with Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early (Gerold Oliver) were everything I could have ever hoped they’d be and more. The “…seven years of unwed bliss” scene was just phenomenal.
While I’m at it, Gerold Oliver was hilarious as Jimmy Early. He played the role with the spunk and foolishness that is required. He delivered a performance that I’d love to see in a bigger production.
The role of the villain is incredibly hard to do, but Bentley Caldwell pulls it off. He takes the role of the domineering Curtis Taylor Jr. and makes it his own. I joked with him after the performance when the actors have their meet and greet that if no one comes up to talk to him, it meant that he’d done a good job of making himself a very successful villain. I was the only one who came to speak to him. It’s incredibly hard work to pull off a villain, especially Curtis Taylor, Jr. Caldwell did so with a caliber I wasn’t expecting. Kudos!
Special shout-out goes to Dwayne Benn who I remembered as a favorite from Into the Woods. He was just in the company of this show, I guess taking a break after killing it in the role of Jack last month. It was nice seeing him again.
Another couple of special shout outs go to company members Blake Holliday, Quantavius “Q” Rankins, and Michael McGee who really stood out in the company. These gentlemen made daring attempts at stealing the show anytime they were on stage. I would love to see them in a show where they are featured with bigger roles. Mister McGee would kill it in a show like Ain’t Misbehavin’ with his amazing voice. Mister Holliday was hilarious. His gift with comedy should be nurtured. I’ve never laughed that hard at a character with less than a handful of actual lines. Mister Rankins is an obvious song and dance man. He was a showman at his best that night. Good work, gentlemen. I’m usually much nicer to the ladies, but you really did great work.
Community theatre is hard work that should be rewarded. Go see Dreamgirls before it closes if you’re lucky enough to land tickets. If not, and even if you do, you should make plans to attend their fundraiser on March 19, a disco themed night titled Bash Fever. Cocktails, dinner, and dancing for only $100 to raise funds for the little theatre that could. I really like this theatre troupe, so please attend. If you can’t afford the full price ticket for dinner and cocktails, they have a dance party only option for $25. But spring for the dinner and cocktails. I'm sure you'll be glad you did. Support the arts! People need them! Murfreesboro needs them! These guys are really good and will only get better with your support.
Dreamgirls runs through February 28th at Murfreesboro Center for the Arts, located at 110 W College Street in beautiful downtown Murfreesboro. Tickets can be purchased at www.boroarts.org. As of this writing, seats are only available for the February 28th matinee.