Original London Cast – 2016 / Music by Henry Krieger and lyrics by Tom Eyen
Starring: Amber Riley, Liisi LaFontaine, Ibinabo Jack, Joe Aaron Reid, Adam J. Bernard, Tyrone Huntley, Nicholas Bailey, Lily Frazer, Rohan Richards, Gabriel Mokake, Ashley Luke Lloyd
Rate: 8 (from 1 to 10) / Photos by Brinkhoff/Mogenburg
Review: For some reason I don’t know, this hit Broadway musical had to wait 35 years to open at London’s West End but did it with a bang! This production was received with great reviews and it became an instant success. So, a cast recording was inevitable and I’m glad they did it.
I always try to imagine how was the reaction of the audience when they first heard “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” sung by Jennifer Holliday and I can’t. Here, the song is sung by Amber Riley, who started her career as Mercedes in the television series GLEE, and here has her big chance to be a star. She really deserves it and got an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical! Her rendition of the song is a powerful one, different from the original, but her biggest moment is with “I Am Changing”; I confess I prefer this song to “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” and I believe it was overshadowed by the more famous one. For me, Riley’s rendition of “I Am Changing” is the best one ever (before her, my favorite was the one by Lillias White).
But this rich score by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, with its Motown sound, is more than those two songs. It’s true, this doesn’t sound like the conventional or traditional musicals I love so much, so maybe I shouldn’t like it, but I can’t resist it. The songs have a melody that easily conquers me and a contagious rhythm. The title song, “One Night Only” and “Family” are good examples of what I’m saying.
The fact that this recording was done live in front of an audience, give it a strong theatrical feeling and if we close our eyes we can almost see what’s happening on stage. Amber Riley sounds fabulous, but she’s isn’t alone. Liisi LaFontaine is very good as Deena and their “Listen” duet is another highlight of the score. Ibinabo Jack is the other Dreamgirl. As for the boys, Adam J. Bernard has his shining moment with “I Meant You No Harm”, Joe Aaron Reid delivers a sweet “When I First Saw You” and Tyrone Huntley leads the company with the beautiful “Family” and later has a strong duet with Riley, “I Miss You, Old Friend”.
For me, this is the best and more lively recording of this score. So, let these DREAMGIRLS charm you and I’m sure you’ll spend an enjoyable time in their company.