When was the last time you watched Dreamgirls? I haven’t watched this movie in ages and it happened to be on when I woke up from my nap. So, here we are. The Broadway musical is the classic, which is why the movie is just a “stroll.”
Originally, Dreamgirls was the story of three best friends from Chicago who sang at the Apollo Theater during their amateur night (remember those?). From there, drugs, betrayal, love, money, and music ensues. The movie takes the same approach just with a little more pizazz.
First thing’s first, the girls have HUGE shoes to fill. I didn’t say big, I said HUGE. THEE diva Sheryl Lee Ralph portrayed the original Deena Jones, everyone’s momma, auntie, or grandma (depending on the role) Loretta Devine was Lowell, and THEE voice Jennifer Holliday as THEE Effie White. And I just found out that when Holliday quit, one of the many times she did, Jenifer Lewis played Effie in her absence. The odds are stacked again all three of these ladies. All there of them can SANG. Not sing, SANG. It is documented. Their voices are golden, but…could they pull this off? They did. The movie won Hudson the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in a Supporting Role and it also won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture. Plus, everyone could act…Beyoncé was great in this role. Best we’ve seen her in an acting role and I think it’s because she was able to mix what she actually does with the role. Now, I do want to say that I think her performance would be better now after Lemonade. Just take a look at some old footage of the ladies…
Let’s break down all the Black references I’ve found in this movie. We start with Curtis Taylor Jr. who is basically Berry Gordy, Diddy, and probably Jimmy Iovine mixed together. The movie itself is a mixture of the story of The Supremes, Sparkle, The Five Heartbeats, a sprinkle of the Jackson 5 movie and the dark tales of the music industry. Effie White is Florence Ballard and Sista. Her drug was alcohol. James “Jimmie” Early is every troubled artist who is eventually on his way out but not at the time we’re introduced to him. Deena is basically Diana Ross. Lorell is every third girl or guy in the group that we often forget about. We love her just as much but we just don’t care as much so her issues fly under the radar. C.C. White is Smokey Robinson, Stix, Ne-Yo and every man who can write a bomb song for a female singer.
I’ve never seen the Broadway play so I don’t know if they do this or not but the movie brings in the happenings of the world into the fabric of the story. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam war, the rise and fall of disco, and the ever-changing landscape of music that was pushed by cultural uprisings and reckonings. I think this is what helped this play transition into a movie. If you follow my blog, you know that is one of my pet peeves. You cannot take a play and instantly make it a movie. They are two different mediums and are not interchangeable.
Now, the real star of this movie is Edward Regan Murphy! Fight me on this. I said earlier that Jennifer Hudson is phenomenal as a singer. She also acted her butt off, but Edward? Edward! Edward ate the role UP! There were many times where I didn’t even see Eddie Murphy as I knew him. The year he was nominated for an Oscar, after winning all the other precursor awards, he lost to Alan Arkin for his portrayal of Edwin Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine. Little Miss Sunshine, y’all! I like that movie, too, but c’mon, Academy! This was Murphy’s year! Either way, other than his role in Mr. Church, Murphy was the greatest actor in this film and there is no argument for that. I won’t take any.
I hate musicals. It’s a known fact. This movie is no exception. I like some songs and some I can fast forward through. Personally, I enjoyed “Steppin’ to the Bad Side.” The disco version of “One Night Only” is also one my list. The rest…I can do without, but again, I don’t like musicals, so don’t use me as a gauge for the music. It’s good. I know that much.
Rewatching this movie gave me some good nostalgia. It also took me down a rabbit hole of looking for footage from Broadway. Did you know Billy Porter played Jimmy Early in the concert version? Blew my mind, too. Go down the rabbit hole with me!