'Dream Girls' spotlights history and cultures

Published: Saturday, Feb. 2 2013 1:15 p.m. MST

The cast of "Dream Girls."

Levi Walker

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Diana Ross was reportedly upset when the Tony Award-winning musical “Dream Girls” opened on Broadway, and she refused to see it.

Based loosely on the history and fame of The Supremes, “Dream Girls,” opening this week at the Capitol Theatre, tells the story of the rise and eventual fall of a Motown group, The Dreams.

“I did most of my research about the Supremes,” said Jasmin Richardson, who plays Deena. “I based my research off Diana Ross — and those are big shoes to fill.”

Six years after the release of the film adaptation, Richardson says the tour is striking a chord with patrons. “People are more familiar with the film than the original musical,” she said. “Partly because it was so recent, and also because of the stars that were in it. But they’re really responding to it.”

This current tour is a little bit different from the original Broadway production. “There are two songs that are added. It’s a little bit different, but it’s really beautiful. The wigs and costumes are fabulous,” Richardson said.

“I really trust the talent that we have, and it’ll only get better as we go,” said Aubrey Poo, a South African actor brought in to play the agent of The Dreams, Curtis Taylor Jr.

Poo played Taylor in the South African tour and has been in the United States just over five weeks. “It was a great opportunity, and it came at the right time of my career,” he said. “I’m fairly established back home and am excited to be here and network and see what the next chapter brings.”

Being in America, performing in an American musical is a new challenge for Poo. “It’s very different to play an American for an American audience,” he said. “For instance, anyone can play an African on Broadway. But when you play an African in Africa, where the play is based, there’s a big challenge of being believable.”

Poo relies on the tight-knit cast for help with certain phrases. “Sometimes he’ll ask us ‘how would you guys actually say that,’ Richardson said of her South African co-star. “He does a really great job; we just help with finding the groove."

“It’s an honor for me to be here and be revisiting the show and the character,” he said. “For any actor, you always think, ‘I could’ve done this differently and I could have done that,’ so it’s been great to revisit.”

Having toured the same show through two different cultures, Poo is struck by how similar it can be. “We all tell the same story,” he said. “Apartheid, the civil rights movement, there’s so much in the way we’ve all been influenced — it’s the human story of making it in a white industry.”

And it might also be about the food.

“I actually really like your Mexican cuisine,” Poo said. “I’ve fallen in love with that. I enjoyed Phoenix because the climate is similar to home. But I’ve liked the snowy climates, too; it’s a wonder to see a city covered in white.”

“He likes to try everything,” Richardson said. “It’s been so fun. We’ve been showing him the way we eat things, and what sauces we like.

“We’ve really been having fun. And we all get along great,” she added. “And it’s just a really great show. I hope that people can come and relate to these characters as human beings.”

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