Dreamgirls

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Dreamgirls

Henry Krieger, Tom Eyen

Full Length Musical, Drama  /  4f, 4m

Book and Lyrics by Tom Eyen / Music by Henry Krieger / Original Broadway Production Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett / Orchestrations by Harold Wheeler / Produced on Broadway by Michael Bennett, Robert Avian, Geffen Records and The Shubert Organisation

A sweeping and inspirational journey through 20th century American pop music, Dreamgirls chronicles one Motown group's rise from obscurity to superstardom.

Photo: Joan Marcus

Dreamgirls
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OVERVIEW

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    4f, 4m
  • Duration
    Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre
    Subgenre
    Period
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    • Appropriate for all audiences
Accolades
Accolades
  • Winner! Six 1982 Tony Awards, including Best Book
    Nominee: Thirteen 1982 Tony Awards, including Best Musical
    Winner! Four 1982 Drama Desk Awards
    Nominee: Ten 1982 Drama Desk Awards, including Outstanding Musical
    Winner! 1982 Theatre World Award (Jennifer Holliday)
Description

Through gospel, R&B, smooth pop, disco and more, Dreamgirls explores themes of ambition, hope and betrayal, all set in the glamorous and competitive world of the entertainment industry.

"Dreamgirls is a show about a time in American musical history when rhythm and blues blended with other styles of popular music creating a new American sound. Act One is set in the fabulous sixties — a time when we were still screaming at Elvis and listening to the Beatles, but were dancing to the new beat of countless girl and boy groups like The Supremes, The Marvelettes, The Temptations and The Shirelles. Dreamgirls is not just about the singing and the dancing and the performing. The play is also about the behind-the-scenes reality of the entertainment industry — the business part of show business that made possible this cultural phenomenon. Act Two shows the creation and the arrival of disco — though the word is never used in the script. The subject matter of this play deals with a musical contribution to America of such importance that only now — decades later — are we beginning to understand." - Michael Bennett

History
Dreamgirls opened on Broadway on December 20, 1981 at the Imperial Theatre, where it played for 1521 performances. The original cast included Jennifer Holliday, Loretta Devine, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Ben Harney. In 1987, a Broadway revival starring Lillias White ran for 177 performances at the Ambassador Theatre. On September 24, 2001, a "One Night Only" concert performance was staged at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, featuring Audra McDonald, Lillias White, Heather Headley, and Norm Lewis. The show made its London premiere at The Savoy Theatre in December 2016, with Amber Riley appearing as Effie White; the acclaimed production ran through January 12, 2019.

Act I

In 1962, at the world-famous Apollo Theatre in New York City, The Dreamettes arrive late for a talent contest that they hope will launch their R&B career. The trio, featuring the powerful lead singer Effie White backed up by willowy Deena and sassy Lorrell, is accompanied by Effie's brother C.C., who writes all their material. Smooth-talking businessman Curtis Taylor manipulates the contest, and The Dreamettes do not win the trophy. Instead, Curtis becomes the group's manager, and he negotiates a job for the girls as backup singers for gospel star Jimmy Early.

Jimmy and The Dreamettes begin touring, and they soon record their first song, "Cadillac Car," written by C.C. But the song is also recorded and popularised by a white group in a bland pop style. The girls, C.C., Curtis, and Jimmy's agent Marty are all outraged. Curtis vows that the group will not be taken advantage of again ("Steppin' to the Bad Side").

Curtis books Jimmy and The Dreamettes as the first black act to appear in Miami Beach, and everyone is elated. Meanwhile, Curtis begins a relationship with Effie, primarily to manipulate the fortunes of the group, and Jimmy - despite being married - begins a relationship with Lorrell.

Seeking a wider audience, Curtis promotes the girls as their own act, The Dreams. But first, Curtis decides to replace lead singer Effie with Deena, whom he believes has the 'look' of success. Effie, embittered by this betrayal, resists singing backup, and C.C. and the group try unsuccessfully to comfort her ("Family"). Meanwhile Jimmy, enticed by Curtis' aggressive management style, leaves his agent, Marty.

The Dreams, now led by Deena, find greater success ("Dreamgirls"). Privately, however, relationships within the group continue to deteriorate. Effie's behavior and appearance further decline, and tempers flare ("It's All Over"). Curtis is forced to replace Effie with Michelle, and Effie's pain and frustration finally spill over ("And I'm Tellin' You I'm Not Going"). The new trio, redubbed Deena Jones and The Dreams, headlines at the Las Vegas Hilton, and their future appears bright.

Act II

Five years later, Deena and The Dreams are at the pinnacle of their career. Effie, on the other hand, struggles to pull herself together. With Marty now acting as her agent, Effie auditions for a job in a Chicago club ("I Am Changing").

Tensions continue to escalate with Deena and The Dreams; C.C. and Curtis have serious artistic differences over C.C.'s new song "One Night Only," and Deena intends to pursue a movie career, much to Curtis' dismay ("When I First Saw You"). With Jimmy's career in a deep decline, Lorrell finally leaves him, bitterly noting that after seven years, Jimmy never did divorce his wife ("Ain't No Party").

Back in Chicago, C.C. apologises to his sister for deserting her, and they reconcile ("I Miss You, Old Friend"). He offers her the song "One Night Only," and Effie's recording of the song moves toward the top of the charts. Curtis, incensed that Effie would challenge the Dreams' disco version of "One Night Only," uses his influence to undercut Effie's version. But Marty uncovers Curtis' illegal business practices, and Deena finally leaves Curtis. After years of bitterness, Effie and Deena reunite. The Dreams present a farewell concert ("Hard To Say Goodbye, My Love") and just before the curtain closes, they invite Effie on stage for one final performance of their signature song, "Dreamgirls."

Considerations

Performing Groups
  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Large Stage
  • Church / Religious Groups
Cautions
  • Mild Adult Themes

Licence details

  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.

Specifics

Details

  • Time Period: 1970s, 1960s
  • Duration: More than 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Features / Contains: Elaborate / High Volume Costumes, Period Costumes

Setting:

Act I: The early sixties.
Act II: The early seventies.

Various cities throughout the U.S.

Casting

4f, 4m
Cast Attributes
  • Role(s) for Black Actor(s)
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)

Principals
(4 female; 4 male)

Effie Melody White — lead singer of the Dreamettes
Deena Jones — backup singer of the Dreamettes; later lead singer
Lorrell Robinson — backup singer of the Dreamettes
Michelle Morris — backup singer; replacement for Effie
Jimmy (James Thunder) Early — principal soul singer
C.C. (Clarence Conrad) White — composer and brother of Effie
Curtis Taylor, Jr. — Cadillac dealer and manager of the Dreams
Marty — theatrical agent for J.T. Early

Supporting
Stepp Sisters — four girl singers; non-speaking
Charlene — backup singer for J.T. Early
Joann — backup singer for J.T. Early
M.C. — master of ceremonies, Apollo Theatre
Tiny Joe Dixon — winning talent contest singer; non-speaking
Little Albert & The Tru-Tones — male quintet; non-speaking
Band (The James Early Band) — six male singers; non-speaking
Wayne — record producer/director
Dave — solo tenor; non-speaking
Sweethearts — two girl backup singers; non-speaking
Frank — press agent
Jerry Norman — nightclub owner
Carl — nightclub pianist; non-speaking
Five Tuxedos — male quintet; non-speaking
Les Styles — girls’ backup quartet; non-speaking
Edna Burke — applause meter reader; non-speaking
Dwight — TV studio director
Stage Manager — TV studio
Brian — pit orchestra drummer; non-speaking
Mr. Morgan — Effie’s lawyer
Security Guard — backstage, Chicago

Ensemble
Chorus Men & Women
Fans
Reporters
Stagehands
Party Guests
Photographers
Film Executives

The original Broadway production had a cast of 32 performers, including chorus. Some doubling was employed in the minor parts.

Music

  • Musical Style: Pop/Rock
  • Dance Requirements: Moderate
  • Vocal Demands: Difficult
  • Orchestra Size: Medium
  • Chorus Size: Large

Act I

1. “I’m Looking For Something, Baby” – Stepp Sisters, Charlene, Joann, Marty, Curtis. Little Albert & The Tru Tones, C.C., Effie, Deena, & Lorrell
2. “Tiny Joe Dixon” – Tiny Joe Dixon
3. “Move (You’re Steppin’ On My Heart)” – Effie, Deena, & Lorrell
3a. Transition To Fake Your Way – Chorus
4. “Fake Your Way To The Top” – Jimmy, Effie, Deena, & Lorrell
5. “Cadillac Car (Aria)” – Curtis, C.C., Jimmy, Marty & The Band
6. “On The Road/Cadillac Car” – C.C., Jimmy, Marty, Effie, Deena, Lorrell, & Ensemble
7. “Movin’ Out/Recording Studio” – Jimmy, Effie, Deena, Lorrell, & Ensemble
8. “Cadillac Car” – A La Pat Boone – Dave & Sweethearts & Offstage Voices
9. “Steppin’ To The Bad Side” – Curtis, C.C., Jimmy Effie, Lorrell, & Ensemble
10. “Party-Party” – Curtis, C.C., Jimmy, Effie, Lorrell, & Ensemble
11. “Baby-Baby” – Jimmy, Effie, Deena, Lorrell, & Ensemble
12. “Family” – Jimmy, C.C., Curtis, Effie, Deena, & Lorrell
12a. Show Biz Transition – Ensemble
13. “Dreamgirls” – Deena, Effie, & Lorrell
13a. “Reporters” – Deena, Effie, Lorrell, & Ensemble
14. “Heavy” – Curtis, Deena, Effie, & Lorrell
15. “Walkin’ Down The Strip” – Jimmy
16. “It’s All Over” – Curtis, C.C., Jimmy, Effie, Deena, Lorrell, & Michelle
17. “(And I’m Telling You) I’m Not Going” – Effie, Deena, Lorrell, Michelle, & Ensemble

Act II

18. Opening Act Two/Reprise: Dreamgirls – Jimmy, Deena, Lorrell, Michelle, Curtis, & Ensemble
18a. Scene Change – Orchestra
19. “I Am Changing” – Effie
20. “I Am Changing” – Vogue – Curtis, C.C., Effie, Deena, Lorrell, Michelle, & Ensemble
21. Vogue Transition To Dreams – Orchestra
22. “You Are My Dream” – Curtis & Deena
23. “Ain’t No Party” – Jimmy, Lorrell, & Tuxedos
24. “I Meant You No Harm” – Jimmy, C.C., Deena, Lorrell, & Michelle
25. “Rap” – Jimmy, Frank, Curtis, Lorrell, & Ensemble
26. “I Miss You, Old Friend” – Marty, C.C., Effie, & Les Styles
27. “One Night Only (Disco)” – Curtis, Deena, Lorrell, Michelle, & Ensemble
28. “Chicago” – C.C., Marty, Mr. Morgan, Curtis, Effie, Deena, Lorrell, & Michelle
29. “Hard To Say Goodbye, (My Love)” – Curtis, Deena, Lorrell, Michelle, Effie
30. Dreamgirls Bows – Orchestra
31. Bows (Exit Music) – Orchestra

Full Orchestration

Reed 1: Alto Saxophone, Piccolo & Flute
Reed 2: Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Oboe & English Horn
Reed 3: Baritone Saxophone, Flute & Bass Clarinet

Trumpet 1 & 2 (both double on Flugelhorn)
Trumpet 3 (doubles Flugelhorn)
Trombone 1 (Tenor Trombone)
Trombone 2 (Tenor Trombone with Bass attachment)

Bass (electric)

Guitar

Synthesizer (“string” sounds only)
Piano: Acoustic Piano, Electric Piano (Fender Rhodes) & Synthesizer (Prophet)
Percussion: (Mallet instruments)

Timpani (2 Pedal Drums)
Vibraphone
Bells
Chimes
Bongo Drums
Tambourine
Conga Drum(s)
Cow Bell (for Conductor)
Triangle (2 Sizes)
Cabasa
Bell Tree
Cymbals – Suspended
Vibraslap
Shaker (2 Sizes)
“Cute Toys”:
Temple Block
Wood Block
Tambourine & Triangle

Drums: (Trap Set)

Bass Drum
Snare Drum
Tom Tom (2 Sizes)
Floor Tom Tom
“Timbales”
Bongo Drums
Cymbals: Hi-Hat
“suspended” (several)
Roll with “swell”
“choice”
“ride”
“crash”

Materials

Scripts

Rehearsal Resources

Music Material Rental Packages Glyphs / UI / Tooltip

Full Package:
1 Piano/Conductor Score
35 Libretto/Vocal Books
1 Reed 1
1 Reed 2
1 Reed 3
2 Trumpet 1&2
1 Trumpet 3
1 Trombone 1
1 Trombone 2
1 Percussion
1 Drums
1 Guitar
1 Piano
1 Synthesizer
1 Bass

Piano Only:
1 Piano/Conductor
35 Libretto/Vocal book

Additional Resources And Services Available

Media

Press

"A show that strikes with the speed and heat of lightning." - Frank Rich, The New York Times
"An enduring, crowd-rousing entertainment with a terrific pastiche score." - Ben Brantley, The New York Times

"Sensational... emotionally infectious...bursts with joy, desire and ferocious passion." - Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

"Dreamgirls is a musical full of sparkle...a tale of transformation: from naive hopefuls into jaded superstars, from raw R&B into the disco era, from success to failure, and then back again." - Lyndsey Winship, The Guardian

"Scintillating songs by Henry Krieger and Eyen...crackling with energy and momentum from one song and dance number to the next." - Demetrious Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter

"When Broadway history is being made, you can feel it. What you feel is a seismic emotional jolt that sends the audience, as one, right out of its wits. While such moments are uncommonly rare these days, I'm here to report that one popped up at the Imperial last night. Broadway history was made at the end of the first act of Michael Bennett's beautiful and heartbreaking new musical, Dreamgirls." - Frank Rich, The New York Times

Music Samples

Videos

  • Dreamgirls - Highlights

  • Dreamgirls - Movie Trailer

  • "Dreamgirls" - 1983 MDA Telethon

  • Dreamgirls at North Shore

  • Dreamgirls - 1983 Tony Awards

  • Dreamgirls - 2017 Olivier Awards

More videos +

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Authors

Henry Krieger

Henry Krieger began composing for Off-Off-Broadway in his twenties. Soon, collaborations with Tom Eyen and Broadway director/producer/choreographer Michael Bennett led to a workshop production of what was originally entitled Big Dreams. After several workshops, numerous rewrites an out of town tryout in Bos ...

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Tom Eyen

Tom Eyen (1940-1991) was an American playwright, lyricist, television writer and director. He received a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for Dreamgirls in 1981.Eyen is best known for works at opposite ends of the theatrical spectrum. Mainstream theatergoers became acquainted with him in 1981, w ...

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