I have to admit, strange as it may be, I don’t like ‘musicals’. Now bare in mind some of my favorite films of all time consist of “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Odd? Yes, I know. But I don’t get the gist of seeing a movie, when out of nowhere in the middle of a conversation, someone breaks into song. So when I heard “Dreamgirls,” (one of the most successful shows on Broadway, originally starring Jennifer Holliday) was coming to the big screen, I wasn’t all that sure I would be in the audience. The single factor that brought me to the theater on this Christmas Day to see the film was: Jennifer Hudson. I freely admit, in my early 40’s, I watch ‘American Idol.’ She was a finalist one year (in case you don’t watch the show). I already knew going in her vocal ability and style. For those ‘Idol,’ detractors, this is just one more argument won that the show might actually be able to find real talent. Remember, Kelly Clarkson is the first Idol winner and see how far she’s gone. She’s one of the most successful artists in the last 10 years. Maybe it was actually a good thing Hudson wasn’t the winner. She made not have had this break through chance. Having said that, TV is one thing, film is another. After seeing the movie, I had absolutely NOTHING to worry about.
“Dreamgirls,” is a tour de force film on every level. Directed and written by Bill Condon, he has crafted a smart, touching, and very realistic story based on the early beginning of Diana Ross and The Supremes. Obviously the Broadway Show is based on the same story. What Condon has done is make a ‘musical’ that literally had the audience in the theater cheering and applauding what was being portrayed on the screen. And it happened more than once. On to that a bit later.
The entire cast is wonder. Jamie Foxx, as Curtis Taylor Jr. is essentially a “Berry Gordy,” type character. He is an artists’ manager who actually is a Cadillac salesman. Charming, disarming, and is basically morally corrupt and lower than a snake’s belly – in short, typical manager. Eddie Murphy, as James ‘Thunder’ Early, an R&B artist, who takes the best of James Brown, Otis Redding and bit of Elvis, mixed all together. He’s got charisma, charm, and is quite the ladies man. The problem is he can’t quite break onto the music charts. That is, until he meets up with Taylor. Much to Marty Madison’s dismay (perfectly played by Danny Glover). Madison is the old fashioned type of manager. He’s the guy who really does care about the artists he represents.
The genesis of the film really revolves around the ‘Dreamettes.’ Beyonce Knowles as Deena Jones, is the ‘Ross,’ character. For all her efforts she is very believable, likeable, and at the beginning, rather naïve. Jennifer Hudson as Effie Melody White is her Wilson to Knowles Ross. Effie is really the one with the unbelievable voice who is certainly much more than just a background singer. In fact, when we first see the Dreamettes is Effie who is the lead vocalist. Anika Noni Rose rounds out the trio as Lorrell Robinson. Though she may seem the ‘third wheel’ in the group, Rose’s performance is anything but. She holds her own. As the story progresses and things happen, I’m not going to play ‘spoiler,’ Sharon Leal comes into the picture as Dreamette Michelle Morris. Some of you may recognize her from the television show “Boston Public.” She played schoolteacher Marilyn Sudor. She too, brings her own strength to her supporting role. Keith Robinson is wonderful as Effie’s brother, Clarence Conrad ‘C.C.’ White. Robinson really has all the talent. He’s the songwriter, choreographer, and all around dreamer. Essentially, he’s the hit maker.
As I eluted to before, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a film when the audience in the theater actually applauded during a musical number. Actually, I take that back. People were dancing during Prince’s “Purple Rain,” during “Let’s Go Crazy.” This however was a completely different experience. Without a doubt, the hearts topping performance belongs to Hudson during and emotional gut wrenching rendition of Jennifer Holliday’s Diva making classic “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the house or one person still sitting in their seats. She’s proved to everyone that not only did she deserve her Golden Globe Nomination for “Best Supporting Actress” but, hold on to your hats, she SHOULD win. My prediction! Knowles, has also been nominated for the award for Best Actress, and Murphy has also garnered a nomination for ‘Actor.’ It will be interesting to see if the Academy Awards follow suit.
If you’re looking for something that is completely entertaining on every level, that will make you feel good, that will have you singing along: do yourself a favor, return the unwanted Christmas gifts in a couple of days. Go see ‘Dreamgirls,’ now. Actually, I have to go myself. I have to go buy the soundtrack.