One thing that the current production of “Dreamgirls” demonstrates is that Dolf Ramos, Marco Gomez and their intrepid little company is unquestionably the “Little Engine that could” of this city’s theatre community. Even with their declared mission statement of bringing works of the musical theatre to L.A. audiences, they could still play it safe and stick to shows like “The Fantasticks”, “Two by Two”, “I Do, I Do”, “Company”, “Chess”, or “Romance Romance” – but noooooooooooo!
With past shows such as “Jekyll and Hyde”, “Cabaret”, and “Into the Woods” the DOMA Theatre Company seems to delight in biting off more than you think they can possibly manage to chew without pulling a Mama Cass. Then, while you watch and fretfully try to recall if it’s five abdominal thrusts first or five back blows, DOMA munches daintily away then asks for seconds.
The 1981 Tony award-winning musical by Henry Krieger and Tom Even gives a fast and loose “people’s history” of the R&B industry taking inspiration for it’s stories from the careers of James Brown, The Shirelles, Jackie Wilson, Berry Gordy but most of all (despite vociferous denials) Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and The Supremes. “Dreamgirls” is a huge undertaking for any theater with twenty-two numbers in the first act alone, costume changes galore, and a cast of thousands (okay, okay twenty-eight – but still!!!)
DOMA’s production defies the limitations of Equity-waver theatre to present a fully realized and totally entertaining staging in telling the tale of three young singers (Tyra Dennis, Jennifer Colby Talton and Constance Jewell Lopez) who suffer the slings and arrows of success in the big city after falling under the sway of a musical Svengali (Welton Thomas Pitchford).
Dennis, Talton and Lopez harmonize in near perfect pitch as “The Dreamettes”. Lopez bears the most weight on her shoulders as Effie White, the role loosely based on Florence Ballard. The role, which was initially intended as a vehicle for Nell Carter won Jennifer Holliday a Tony and brought American Idol star Jennifer Hudson an Academy, carries a ton of baggage with it. Lopez manages to handle the expectations and demands of the part excellently. One might wish that she could have completely exorcised her predecessors from her performance but perhaps that is asking too much of a young actress or her director.
Pitchford as the glacier Curtis Taylor Jr. (the Gordy inspired role) has great presence on stage and allows the audience to witness the ice cracking when needed. Lorenzo T. Hughes, as the manager who comes to the rescue of the fallen Effie, is both solid and compassionate while Keith Bolden nearly walks off with the show in his back pocket as the Jimmy “Thunder” Early.
And it’s good to see some familiar DOMA faces in the crowd such as Mookie Johnson who earns his meritorious moment in the spotlight as Tiny Joe Dixon.
Director/executive producer Marco Gomez (the “Ma” in “DOMA”) has more than shown his talent and skill in past productions and has nothing to prove, with “Dreamgirls” he only serves to prove he has nothing to prove.
Rae Toledo is new to the DOMA stage which poses a challenge to any choreographer, but she handles it with great skill, and costume designer Michael Mullen is to be given a round of applause for covering the sweeping demands of the show with such flair.
“Dreamgirls” is yet another reminder that where talent and will lies, all things are possible.
DOMA Theatre Co. @ The MET Theatre
1089 N. Oxford Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029
Performances through May 5:
Fridays @ 8 pm: April 5, 12, 19, 26; May 3
Saturdays @ 8 pm: April 6, 13, 20, 27; May 4
Sundays @ 3 pm: April 7, 14, 21, 28; May 5
General Admission: $30
VIP: $34.99 (includes preferred seating and a complimentary beverage)
Seniors and students with ID: $20
(behind Catalina Market in the alley just east of Western and south of Santa Monica Blvd.)
Editor’s Note: The review originally stated that the character Effie White was based on Mary Wilson. Working Author regrets the error.