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Stage review: 'Dreamgirls' delivers a fun night of Motown funk in Salt Lake City

Published: Thursday, Feb. 7 2013 11:38 a.m. MST

The cast of "Dreamgirls."

Levi Walker

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“DREAMGIRLS,” national tour, through Feb. 10, Capitol Theatre, 801-355-2787, running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (one intermission)

When the Dreamettes burst on the stage, singing “Move (You’re Steppin’ on my Heart),” it’s obvious you’re in for a night of great singing and fun costumes.

The current national touring production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Dreamgirls” delivers on most of the top notes you’d expect from a musical about a Motown singing group — inspired by Diana Ross and the Supremes.

The leads pack a vocal punch. Charity Dawson, who plays the mouthy and eventually dismissed ‘Dream,’ Effie White, knocks her solos, including the iconic “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” out of the park and was met with much applause.

The surprise, vocally, is the often more subdued of the Dreams, Lorelle, played by Mary Searcy. She infuses Lorelle with enough attitude and sass that the character becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Jasmin Richardson delivers convincing vocals as well, as Deena Jones (aka Diana Ross) and the three played nicely off one another.

The rest of the cast turn in fine performances — with the men and ensemble adding to the energy with Robert Longbottom’s choreography. Michael Jahlil is a standout as James “Thunder” Early, a star heading toward the end of his career.

The big disappointment of this production is the use of large LED panels instead of sets (design, Robin Wagner). This has been an ongoing trend for some time with theater and I find it boring and stark. I miss the days that productions had actual sets — where I could glean more information about the characters through visual cues.

I understand that the LED panels are easier to move cross country, easier to fit on different stages, easier to create different settings (just show different pictures) and are likely a bit cheaper. But it makes for a pretty sterile production.

What shines brighter than the LED lights are William Ivey Long’s fantastic costumes — true to the era with fun show-stopping gowns. And the “Dreamgirls” orchestra helps set the mood with wailing brass and tight rhythms.

If you enjoyed the 2006 movie adaptation, you’ll notice a few small differences, but will walk away with the same Motown beat thumping in your head.

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