Effie White is not going anywhere—and given the social distancing climate, neither are we (for now). So, turn on the TV and enjoy the 2007 movie musical adaptation of Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s Tony-winning Dreamgirls, which arrives on HBO Max April 24. The film stars Grammy winner Beyoncé Knowles as Deena Jones, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell Robinson, and Jennifer Hudson as Effie White. Hudson won an Oscar for her feature film debut performance, thanks in part to a moving and spellbinding take on “And I’m Telling You,” the musical’s signature song.
Focusing on the fictional girl group The Dreams, famously inspired by Motown and groups like The Supremes, Dreamgirls explores the stardom, competition, and love lives surrounding three African-American women climbing the ranks of the music industry in the ’60s and ’70s.
Directed and adapted by Bill Condon, the movie also stars Jamie Foxx as Curtis Taylor Jr., Eddie Murphy as James “Thunder” Early, Keith Robinson as C.C. White, Sharon Lawrence as Michelle Morris, Dawnn Lewis as Melba Early, and Danny Glover as Marty Madison. Most of the score by Krieger and Eyen remains intact, with the addition of four new songs, including three that were Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song: “Love You I Do,” “Patience,” and “Listen.”
Keep an eye out for a cameo by original Broadway Lorelle, Loretta Devine, along with Broadway favorites and Dreamgirls alum Hinton Battle and Yvette Carson. Tony nominees Rory O’Malley and Laura Bell Bundy also make the most of a pivotal scene highlighting the struggle Black artists faced in the ’60s when trying to retain control over their own music.
The original Broadway production opened December 20, 1981, at the Imperial Theatre. Directed and co-choreographed by Michael Bennett and co-choreographed by Michael Peters, Dreamgirls featured a book and lyrics by Eyen and music by Krieger. Nominated for 13 Tony awards, the show won six, including Best Book of a Musical. The show played more than 1,500 performances before closing August 11, 1985. A London revival, starring an Olivier-winning Amber Riley as Effie, premiered in 2016, incorporating some of the songs written for the movie.
The musical has stayed in the headlines throughout the pandemic, thanks to a Clubhouse virtual production in February and a Stars in the House episode featuring performers who have played Effie in various productions. Earlier this month, the original cast Dreamgirls reunited for a RWQuarantunes concert, raising over $1.3 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Looking for more theatre-related movies and TV to enjoy from home? Check out our April 2021 streaming guide here.
Look Back at the Original Broadway Production of Dreamgirls