‘Dreamgirls’ has all the makings of a smash-hit for DASH Center

// Special fundraising performance to be held Dec.

Things are right on schedule for DASH Center’s production of “Dreamgirls” to open on Nov. 23. “We are about a week away and all we’re doing is adding costumes and putting a few tweaks here and there…we’re in a good space,” said director and choreographer Jimmy Shields, who also has an acting role in a couple of the performances. Isiah Anderson, Jr. is also assisting with choreography. While the majority of DASH Center’s productions showcase the youth who are enrolled in the center’s performing arts classes, “Dreamgirls” is the center’s first full adult cast production. This is a perfect chance to witness the top tier of talent among adults at DASH, particularly its co-founder and Executive Director Candi Hall who plays the role of Deena Jones, the part Beyoncé Knowles played in the film version (Hall has a voice that can raise the roof singing Whitney Houston songs, so be prepared to be wowed). The whole cast includes phenomenal singers, dancers, actors, and actresses:  current Ms. Pierce County Alexandria Henderson as Lorrell Robinson, Carmen Brantley-Payne as Effie White and Angelica Barksdale as Michelle Morris, with DASH Dance Director Charles Simmons as Curtis Taylor Jr. The character Michelle, who replaces Effie in the latter part of the play, is played by Angelica Barksdale.

Shields will step in and play the role of Effie’s brother C.C. a couple of times during the run. “It’s my dream role,” Shields said. “I’ve been infatuated with ‘Dreamgirls’ for a really long time. This is probably my most adventurous production yet.” “Dreamgirls” originated as a Broadway musical in the early 1980s, nominated for 13 Tony Awards and winning six. The 2006 film adaptation made an overnight sensation of Jennifer Hudson, who won numerous accolades including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an NAACP Image Award, among others. The story revolves mainly around a fledgling girl group called The Dreams and their rise to superstardom during the 1960s and 70s. With nods toward Diana Ross and the Supremes and other Motown acts of that era, “Dreamgirls” explores the trials and tribulations faced by young hopefuls during the Motown heyday. Many memorable hit songs came from the stage production, such as the thrilling “I Am Changing,” “And I am Telling You” and, from the film, “Listen” as performed by Knowles.

“Each number is like a concert,” Sheilds said of the DASH production, and the music starts from the moment the curtain rises. “Right off the bat it starts off with a performance. You are at the Apollo.” DASH Center’s production stays more true to the Broadway play than the film version, which took certain liberties with the original. “One of the things the film kind of took away was the story; it tells such a beautiful story for everyone involved,” Sheilds explained. Whereas the film focuses on just some of the main characters, in DASH’s production there are about half a dozen stories going on that are intertwined throughout the play. “It’s not just about the sort of playing off a Diana Ross and the Supremes idea of the girls groups of the 1960s and 70s,” Sheilds said. Though there is that aspect to the stage production, there are also story plots going on among all the principal characters. “Lorell has her own story plot going, and Effie has probably the biggest story plot and not Deena,” according to Sheilds. “There’s C.C.’s battles, Curtis and his ego trips he goes on… Jimmy (played by Isiah Parker) is a dynamo – a mix between Little Richard and James Brown – so his character on stage is larger than life and Isiah is perfect for that.” There is a big change from the film concerning the character Jimmy as well, but audiences will have to find out that for themselves.

“Dreamgirls” will run at the LAPAC Theatre on the campus of Charles Wright Academy from Nov. 24 through Dec. 9. Showtimes are Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20/adults and $15/under 21. Advance tickets are $15 when purchased online before Nov. 17. Get tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/287535. After Nov. 17, tickets must be purchased in person at DASH Center (1504 Martin Luther King Jr. Way) or at the door day of show. For all who desire to help DASH grow and continue serving youth in the Tacoma/Pierce County community, mark your calendars and get your tickets now to attend the “Dreamgirls” Gala and Fundraiser Show on Dec. 1. The evening begins at 6:30 p.m., and the play starts at 8. During the catered reception, guests will be entertained by some fine talent from the Tacoma area, enjoy a meet and greet with the cast, participate in a silent auction, and take home a gala gift bag. Tickets for this event are $40 and proceeds go directly to the Inspiring Artists Scholarship fund and the DASH Center Theatre Capital Fund, as the center is aiming to secure its own performing arts theatre in 2013.

Visit http://www.thedashcenter.org to learn more about DASH Center and its programs.

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