Review: 'Dreamgirls' by Landmark Community Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

M.C.: And now the courageous, the curvaceous….Creamettes!
Deena Jones: It’s the DREAMettes! The Dreamettes!

Thomaston, CT - Landmark Community Theatre has assembled a wonderful cast of community theatre actors to present ‘Dreamgirls’ on the Thomaston Opera House stage. Foster Evans Reese returns to Landmark for the fifth time to direct and choreograph this show; his previous musicals include ‘Memphis,’ the spectacular ‘Chicago,’ ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Footloose.’ In his director’s note, he describes ‘Dreamgirls’ as “the story of a black singing group that rises from the ghetto to national fame and fortune during the 1960’s... [that is] based upon the show business aspirations and successes of R&B acts such as The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson and others.” The musicals tells the story of an fictional female singing trio from Chicago, who begin as The Dreamettes and later become The Dreams, and rise to be musical superstars. When it ran on Broadway, it starred Waterbury, CT’s own Sheryl Lee Ralph as Deena Jones, Jennifer Holliday as Effie White and Loretta Devine as Lorrell Robinson. The show has a book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger.

Mr. Reese has put Khadija Ansari (Asaka in CTC’s ‘Once on this Island’) in the role of Deena, Samantha Rae Bass (Felicia in ‘Memphis’) as Effie, and Jasmine Clemons (assistant choreographer/ensemble for ‘Memphis’) as Lorell. Tamika Pettway played Michelle, while Elizabeth Bernard, Laureen Monge, Renee Sutherland, and Maytae Harge were the singing group called the Stepp Sisters. Kelsey Morris in her Landmark debut and Watertown HS senior Mary Ryan played the white girls in the Sweethearts and WAMS sophomore and Naugatuck resident Dania Fedrick served as an understudy/ensemble member; Ms. Fedrick will appear as a Ronette in WAMS’ upcoming ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and in ‘Godspell’ with Naugatuck Teen Theatre. 

The gentlemen in this production were especially strong in their roles. I have become a big fan of the work of Danbury resident Mensah Robinson and it was a special treat to watch his take on the role of singer James “Thunder” Early.  This man can sing! The supremely talented Moses Beckett (Eddie in ‘Sister Act’ with Landmark) was superb in the role of the driven manager Curtis; his charm onstage never wanes and he is the ultimate song and dance man. Mark-Anthony Hamblin (‘Memphis’) did very well as Effie’s brother/composer C.C. White and Diwan Keno Glass (‘Sister Act’ and ‘Memphis’) played Marty. Shelby Davis (‘Sister Act,’ ‘Memphis’ AND ‘Chicago’) was both Jerry and Frank, Kyrell Clemons (‘Memphis’) was Wayne and Ruben Soto (often seen on the Warner stage) sang as Tiny Joe Dixon. The director covered an M.C. and an announcer. 

Brittany Fitzpatrick, Nekita Waller, Monet Fleming and Dania’s mother Loretta Fedrick played the group Les Styles and Elizabeth Bernard, Laureen Monge (‘Memphis,’) Renee Sutherland and Maytae Harge (‘Legally Blonde at 7A) played the Stepp Sisters. 

Steffon Sampson played Little Albert, and Mr. Sampson, Kyrell Clemons and Thomaston HS sophomore Coledyn Garrow were the Tru-tones and the Tuxedos. 

Music director was the amazing Aaron Bunel, the ‘AJ’ who the character Jimmy called out to during the show for a change in tempo. The orchestra did a great job with the ‘Dreamgirls’ score; my favorite was the guys on “Steppin’ to the Bad Side” and of course the title song. The choreography by Mr. Foster was up to the usual level of excellence. The hundreds of costumes designed by Ed Bassett, managing director of the Phoenix Stage Company of Oakville, CT, were spectacular in every way. Mr. Reese also designed the set and Alex Dunn did the nice lighting design. 

The first matinee I attended was a little rough around the edges with some technical, costume, voice, and line issues. The strong performances were still able to shine, as were the magnificent costumes. Congratulations to Landmark for taking on such a massive undertaking and coming up with such an entertaining production.

Juan Cardona, Jr. covered the hits of Motown on the house organ for 30 minutes prior to the curtain. Jeff Dunn announced during his curtain speech the upcoming season, which will include (in order) ‘Spamalot,’ ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’ ‘Grease,’ ‘The Rocky Horror Show,’ ‘Hairspray,’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ ‘Dreamgirls continues through the matinee on October 30 and on October 29 Landmark will hold a Volunteer Spotlight reception honoring the board member/ volunteer/my favorite actor, Chuck Stango from 6:45-7:30pm.