Dreamgirls is currently one of the hottest tickets on the West End. Starring former Glee actress Amber Riley in the lead role of Effie White, a performance that won her an Olivier Award, the show opened in London last November. Dreamgirls tells the story of Effie White (Amber Riley), Deena Jones (Liisi LaFontaine) and Lorrell (Ibinabo Jack), friends who want to make it big in the music industry and get their big break when they meet manager Curtis (Joe Aaron Reid). The show explores the ups and downs of fame as well as the jealousy and infighting that threaten to ruin the group.
The show arrived on the West End 10 years after the Oscar-winning film that saw Jennifer Hudson take away Best Supporting Actress. With the success of the movie, it’s amazing to think that it’s taken so long to move outside of the US. As Dreamgirls on the West End experiences huge success and widespread critical acclaim, Sony Music has released the Original London Cast Recording.
The lengthy double-disc release features every single song and given that there’s hardly any dialogue in the production, you’ve pretty much got the whole show to enjoy here. The music is a mixture of soul, R&B, funk and disco with plenty of variety to keep you interested for the duration. Most people will jump straight to Amber Riley’s songs as she gets the most recognisable tracks in the show. Following Jennifer Hudson is a huge task but Riley puts her own take on the songs and she shines brightly. When I saw the production Amber was absent due to illness so it’s interesting hearing her versions of these songs after being blown away by her understudy Marisha Wallace.
Amber has a very different voice to those who have played Effie White before her, which allows her to do something different with the songs. She has a softer tone than say Jennifer Hudson and she’s not quite as bombastic as the original Effie Jennifer Holliday (or indeed her understudy Marisha Wallace). And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going still packs a lot of punch and actually Amber brings out a different side of the song’s emotion. She nails all of the high notes and gives her everything.
Elsewhere she shines on the beautiful I Am Changing, a song that is Effie’s pivotal moment during the second act of the show. She caresses the emotion out of the song with her voice, which goes from beautifully restrained to full-blown power belt with seeming ease. She also adds a few more contemporary R&B runs in there, giving the song a little modern twist.
One of the highlights on the release is Amber’s duet with Liisi LaFontaine on Listen. They perform the version of the track that was adapted from Beyonce’s version in the movie version. LaFontaine’s voice is completely different to Amber’s and she sounds fantastic as she soars and employs the use of her falsetto.
Other highlights on the soundtrack include It’s All Over, an ensemble number that arrives as Effie is pushed out of the Dreams. The song is written as an argument between Effie, Deena, Lorrell, Curtis, C.C (Tyrone Huntley), Jimmy (Adam J. Bernard) and Michelle (Lily Frazer). It’s one of the most explosive moments in the show and it’s a pure joy to hear the West End cast put their spin on it. Adam J. Bernard impresses on I Want You, Baby one of the first numbers he performs as Jimmy with the Dreams, and the two differing versions of One Night Only will have you sobbing one minute and dusting off the glitterball the next.
I could literally rave about every single song on this release because the music is THAT good and the performers are incredible. There isn’t a dull moment over the 28 tracks and listening to the soundtrack makes me want to head back to The Savoy Theatre to see the show all over again. Dreamgirls is a musical with songs are incredibly difficult to sing but this cast makes it all look too easy. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our 5 reasons why you should and book your tickets. Then buy this release and relive it to your heart’s content.
Track List: Disc 1 – 1. I’m Looking for Something, Baby 2. Goin’ Downtown 3. Takin’ the Long Way Home 4. Move 5. Fake Your Way to the Top 6. Cadillac Car 7. Steppin’ to the Bad Side 8. Party, Party 9. I Want You, Baby 10. Family 11. Dreamgirls 12. Press Conference 13. Heavy 14. It’s All Over 15. And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going Disc 2 – 1. Love, Love You Baby 2. When I First Saw You 3. I Am Changing 4. Ain’t No Party 5. I Meant You No Harm 6. The Rap 7. I Miss You, Old Friend 8. One Night Only 9. I’m Somebody 10. Listen 11. Effie White’s Gonna Win/You Are My Dream (Reprise) 12. Hard To Say Goodbye 13. Dreamgirls (Reprise) Record Label: Sony Music Release Date: 5th May 2017