Over the past couple of months, I have been to see the hit-show Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre in London, a couple of times, which opened in November 2016.
This show was originally from the US, and had then gone on to wow audiences around the world. The original cast included Jennifer Holliday as Effie White, Sheryl Lee Ralph as Deena Jones and Loretta Devine as Lorrell Robinson. It then when onto become a film in 2006, which starred Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé and Anika Noni Rose.
From the moment this brand-new West End production was announced, it was guaranteed to be a great show. Despite the show’s success, it had never been to London before, so the London Premier in 2016 was the first time London audiences got to see the show. Along with this brilliant announcement, it was announced that Amber Riley was announced as Effie White (something I will discuss later on).
The rest of the cast includes Marisha Wallace, Karen Mav, Liisi LaFontaine, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Joe Aaron Reid, Adam J Bernard, Tyrone Huntley, Lily Frazer and Nicholas Bailey.
I have now seen this show 3 times (May-August 2017), and have managed to see all 3 Effie’s – Karen, Marisha and Amber. They all had the most amazing voices, and were all so different. Obviously seeing all 3 meant I started to compare them, and in all honesty… I believe casting Amber Riley was a mistake for this production. I understand that it meant ticket sales would be higher, but when she leaves the show. You will quickly see the amount of ticket sales decreasing, which is such a shame for a big hit show.
The first Effie I saw was Karen Mav (X-Factor UK), and her voice was so gripping, and I could just fully feel Effie’s emotions with the way she portrayed the character.
The next Effie I saw was Marisha Wallace (Dreamgirls Dallas) who had recently wowed audiences in Dallas as Effie, her voice was incredible! The most powerful voice I have ever heard in my entire life. I heard her West End Live performance and had very mixed feelings about her, but that video does her no justice, you NEED to see Marisha as Effie, to me she IS Effie, her incredible voice on top of her incredible acting skills, made this the best performance I have ever seen.
Later on in the same day, I went back and saw Amber Riley as Effie… I was finally getting to see THE Amber Riley. And I hate to say it… but I was so disappointed. There is no doubt in saying that her voice is Outstanding, but her acting just wasn’t right for me. To me, it seemed like she didn’t want to be on that stage that night, she just seemed bored, maybe she was ill, I will never know, but I was just so disappointed. Another reason why I may have been disappointed was because of all the amazing reviews she was getting in the show, to me she didn’t live up to that hype.
Another thing which I noticed with this show is that the Alternates, Marisha Wallace and Karen Mav. Get very little credit for the amount of work they put in. When I went to see the Saturday Matinee with Marisha, I overheard an audience member saying “Oh I want to go home now that she’s (Amber Riley) not on.” I understand this audience member payed money to see the show, maybe just to see Amber, but there is still no reason to want to go home. I also heard the same comment when I saw Karen Mav as Effie.
This can become such a big problem when a show cast’s a celebrity. When Amber started the show, it stated on the website, she would miss 1 show a week (Monday Evenings) and then have holiday dates as well. But now, it states that Amber will miss 3 shows a week, on top of holiday dates. Both times when I didn’t see Amber it was because I purposely booked to not see her, so I was so upset when I heard the remarks about “Wanting to leave”, when on booking sites, it clearly states that Amber Riley would NOT be on.
Now that Amber is missing, Monday Evenings and Wednesday/Saturday Matinees. This is becoming a bigger issue as more and more people are missing her.
Hopefully this situation will come to an end when Amber is supposedly leaving on November 18th (not confirmed). It will be sad to see her leave after doing such a good run in the role, but it may be the only way to stop the audience members being disappointed.
The next people I want to talk about in the cast are the incredible Liisi LaFontaine and Asmeret Ghebremichael. Liisi has such a powerful voice which is conveyed in her big songs Dreamgirls and Listen, which both bring the audience to tears every time I have seen it. Her character goes through such a journey, and Liisi’s acting portrays this brilliantly.
Next up is Asmeret, who is the underrated Dreamgirl. She is often left forgotten by other characters and sadly audience members. But to me she is “THE” Dreamgirl. She managed to get through tons of obstacles to stay in the group with a positive attitude, and still had a relationship with Jimmy, and Asmeret portrays this amazingly. Her rendition of the song ‘Ain’t No Party’ is stunning. She hits the high notes with no trouble, and without a doubt has amazing acting skills.
I quickly want to talk about the amazing Lily Frazer who plays Michelle Morris, the fourth Dreamgirl. She has such a small part, but her voice has so much power behind it and i’m always amazed at how she performs and slays with such a small part.
I saw Tyrone Huntley in his last week and he was such a great actor, such a great voice and portrayed the innocent C.C. White perfectly. The next couple of times I saw Dreamgirls I saw Joshua Liburd portray C.C. and his voice had me melting in my seat. Such a powerful voice which had me left with goosebumps all over my body.
I still haven’t seen Joe Aaron Reid as Curtis, but I have seen Ryan Reid. Ryan has such incredible acting skills which leaves you feeling all kinds of emotions for his character, which is such a hard thing to do for a role such as Curtis.
The first time I saw the show I got to see Adam J Bernard as Jimmy, and he was such an amazing actor who had me laughing in my seat so much. But the next couple of times I saw, Ashlee Irish. Ashlee was INCREDIBLE, his voice was amazing for the couple of songs Jimmy had, and he took a completely different approach to Jimmy’s character, which I loved. On top of this, he has only just graduated from The Arts School, which I find incredible, with this being his West End Debut.
Overall, this is one of my favorite shows ever, and I will be returning very soon!