How the Story of Motown’s Girl Groups Became a Dream Ticket to Success

04 December 2019

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The phenomenal success of Dreamgirls continues as the musical embarks on its first ever UK tour in 2020, reaching Blackpool Opera House in November.

The Broadway musical about a black girl group from Chicago, whose entry into a talent competition catapults them into the ruthless world of showbusiness and on to a rollercoaster road to global stardom, became a smash hit movie before the UK stage adaptation made its debut in London. Now audiences in Blackpool can book a dream ticket to see the sensational musical here at the Winter Gardens.

Here are a few facts about the multi-award-winning show’s rise to worldwide acclaim.

  • Written by composer Henry Krieger and playwright Tom Eyen, Dreamgirls is said to be a fictional story based on girl groups of the 1960s such as The Supremes, The Shirelles and The Marvelettes - but speculation that it was based on The Supremes and their relationship with Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records has been fuelled by several similarities. For example The Supremes were renamed Diana Ross & the Supremes whilst in Las Vegas in 1967, and The Dreams became Deena Jones & the Dreams at the same time and place.
  • The standard formula for 1960s girl groups was a lead vocalist with harmonies from two-four backing singers, often with church gospel singing experience, with groups emerging from glee clubs or high schools rather than formed from professional artists.
  • It’s reported that Diana Ross was not a fan of either the Broadway musical or the movie and denied even seeing the latter. However fellow Supreme Mary Wilson attended the premiere in LA and is said to have found it moving, declaring Dreamgirls "closer to the truth than they even know".
  • The Tony Award-winning musical made its Broadway debut on 20th December 1981 and was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, winning six, before beginning a nationwide tour in 1983.
  • Talks regarding the DreamWorks/Paramount 2006 movie adaptation - which starred Beyoncé as Deena, Jennifer Hudson as Effie, and Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell - began as far back as the 1980s with Warner Brothers, at which point it was rumoured Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill would star.
  • The UK and West End premiere of Dreamgirls opened to critical acclaim at the Savoy Hotel in 2016, 35 years after its Broadway debut.
  • Swarovski was the set and costume design partner for the West End show, providing one million Swarovski crystals for 275 costumes and three curtains.
  • Work on the London show was stalled until the right actress was discovered to play Effie – the role originated on Broadway by Jennifer Holliday and Jennifer Hudson in the movie. Glee’s Amber Riley finally impressed producer Sonia Friedman, despite being ill and having recently had an operation on her vocal chords.
  • Dreamgirls launched Jennifer Hudson's acting career and she had to gain 20 pounds to play Effie White, for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She later turned down the title role in the Oscar-nominated film Precious because it would have required her to put on around 100 pounds.
  • Ahead of the film’s release, DreamWorks and the original play’s licenser, The Tams-Witmark Music Library, promoted the movie and play by paying $250,000 in licensing fees for all non-professional stage performances of the show during 2006. This resulted in more than 50 amateur productions in high schools, colleges and non-commercial theatres.
  • Dreamgirls, a story of three black women standing up for their rights and making it in the music industry, is empowering in terms of both gender and race, and was influenced by the Black Power Movement of the 1960s. This is when black artists and Motown made their way into the mainstream market, introducing some of the biggest icons of all time and changing the American music landscape forever.

Book tickets here to see this spectacular soul-filled show, featuring classics including And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going, Listen and One Night Only, 10th-21st November 2020.

 

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