The divas of Dreamgirls sashayed through Broadway in 1981 leaving an indelible impression with a string of megahits and outstanding acting; snatching six Tony Awards, including Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Actress in a Musical, and Outstanding Choreography. After a 1987 Broadway revival, national tours, and a successful movie, that starred Beyoncé and netted Jennifer Hudson an Academy Award, “Deena Jones,” “Effie White,” “James Thunder Early” and the rest of the crew are heading across the pond.
Sonia Friedman Productions has acquired the rights to a full West End production of the musical and it is rumored that Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin) will direct. The musical’s planning is still in the early stages and no venue has been mentioned, but it’s believed that it will go to London towards the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017. A London premiere in 2016, would mark the 35th Anniversary of the musical.
Casting also hasn’t been announced, but open singer auditions were held in May for “black and mixed race performers with strong soul/pop voices for the lead roles of Effie White, Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson, Curtis Taylor Jr., Jimmy Early and C.C. White.”
The musical, which features music by Henry Krieger and a book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, tells the story of a singing trio of black divas, “The Dreams,” and their rise to stardom in the 60’s. The trio is eventually torn apart by another predictable trio of fame, fortune, and men. The original Broadway production opened on December 20, 1981 and closed on August 11, 1985, after 1,521 performances. The cast starred Sheryl Lee Ralph as “Deena Jones,” Jennifer Holliday as “Effie White,” Loretta Devine as “Lorrell Robinson,” Ben Harney as “Curtis Taylor, Jr.,” Cleavant Derricks as “James “Thunder” Early,” and Obba Babatundé as “C. C. White.”
In addition to Beyoncé as “Deena” and Hudson as “Effie,” the 2006 hit movie had plenty of star power with Jamie Fox as “Curtis,” Eddie Murphy as “Jimmie,” Anika Noni Rose as “Lorrell,” and Danny Glover as “Marty.” Original Dreamgirl, Loretta Devine also made a cameo appearance as a jazz singer.
Sonia Friedman Productions is a West End and Broadway production company responsible for some of the most successful theatre productions in London and on Broadway over the past few years. Since 1990, the company has developed, initiated, and produced over 135 new productions, including Much Ado About Nothing, Jerusalem, The Book of Mormon, Legally Blonde the Musical, Betrayal, Arcadia, The Mountaintop, The Children’s Hour and All My Sons.
Michaela Coel Stars in London-based Musical “Been So Long” Film Adaption
Michaela Coel, creator, writer, and star of the BAFTA award-winning Netflix original series, “Chewing Gum”, stars in the London-based musical “Been So Long,” a film adaptation based on the 2009 stage musical by Ché Walker and Arthur Darvill.
Coel plays Simone, a young single mother charmed into a magical night in the city by a handsome stranger with a questionable past- played by Arinzé Kene (One Night in Miami). This modern day love story set in London’s “musical hot-bed” of Camden Town promises a soundtrack with a mix of RnB, Nu Soul and UK dance, as well as music from guest producers.
Coel is joined by an all-singing and all-dancing cast that includes George Mackay (“Captain Fantastic“), Ronke Adekoluejo (“Chewing Gum”), Ashley Thomas (“24”), Joe Dempsie (“Game Of Thrones”), Luke Norris (“The Duchess”), Rakie Ayola (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and Mya Lewis (“Olaf’s Quest”). It is Directed by BAFTA award-winner Tinge Krishnan (“Junkhearts”) and produced by the BAFTA-nominated Nadine Marsh-Edwards (“Bhaji on the Beach”) and Amanda Jenks (“The Girl”) of Greenacre Films.
Filming began earlier this year, shortly after season 2 of “Chewing Gum” was released on Netflix, and while she is making waves as a comedienne, Coel admits she is a stranger to musicals. However, Coel is no stranger to the stage and is quite theatrically and musically inclined having performed her one-woman show Chewing Gum Dreams in various theatres across London (2012-2014) before turning it into the hit series we know and love. She also wrote and recorded six of the tracks from season 1 of “Chewing Gum,” including the theme song.
Still, of singing and dancing on screen Coel shares, “It is a big stretch for me…I’ve never done anything like this in my life. It’s either going to be really amazing or just like, ‘What the f–k was that?’” (Screen Daily).
Either way, we’re rooting for her and can’t wait to see her on the big screen.
“Been So Long” made its rounds at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is set for international release in 2018. “Chewing Gum” season 3 is yet to be confirmed.
Marisha Wallace Leads The Color Purple as Celie in London Benefit Concert
Marisha Wallace, currently the alternate Effie in Dreamgirls in London, will star as Celie in a new one-night-only concert performance of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple at London’s Cadogan Hall, May 21st at 6:00 P.M.
The concert staging will raise funds for the British Theatre Academy, a unique performing arts program that has inspired and nurtured the talent of thousands of young performers who cannot afford to train in performing arts. The evening will also feature a chorus of over 40 current British Theatre Academy participants.
Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple tells the inspiring and unforgettable story of a woman who, through love, finds the strength to triumph over adversity and discover her unique voice in the world.
The musical features a book by Marsha Norman, and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray.
Last seen in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory, directed by John Doyle and starring Tony-Award winner Cynthia Erivo, the production later transferred to Broadway and earned the 2016 Tony for Best Revival of A Musical.
In addition to Wallace as Celie, the cast of the benefit concert includes Wendy Mae Brown (Ghost) as Sofia, Cavin Cornwall (London’s Aladdin) as Mister, Tyrone Huntley (Dreamgirls) as Harpo, Rachel John (The Bodyguard) as Shug, Hugh Maynard (London’s Miss Saigon) as Pa, and Seyi Omooba (Junkyard) as Nettie.
The performance, produced by Matthew Chandler and Danielle Tarento, features musical direction by James Taylor and choreography by Mykal Rand.
Tickets now on sale.