I met him at the candy store.
He turned around and smiled at me
You get the picture
“Yes, we see”
That’s when I fell for the leader of the pack” – The Shangri-Las
From Diana Ross to Dionne Warwick, the iconic musical and lyrical contributions of girl bands in the 1950’s and 1960’s have defined music and emotional expressionism that can be heard today in the likes of Destiny’s Child, En Vogue, TLC, The Bangles, Beyonce, Madonna and The Pointer Sisters. Through the energetic narration of American Bandstand host Dick Clark played beautifully by theater company partner Scott Pfeiffer, the audience is magically transplanted into the intimate setting of a cabaret theater in the 1950’s where Judy Garland or Frank Sinatra would have sat.
On the stage, a young girl group named The Shirelles were sitting in the high school cafeteria dreaming of winning the local music contest and becoming big stars. From Mama Said to Lollipop to the final cast encore of Dreamgirls, the audience one by one got absorbed in this musical tribute to the greatest acts of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The performance cast is filled with incredible local talent whose singing channeled the likes of Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Martha and the Vandellas and Dianna Ross. An ensemble that includes Deidra H. Brooks, Chanbreille Beason, Joy Gregory, Traine N’ Chel, Maureen Remerowski, Sarah M. Taylor, Tiffany West and Lara Wilson.
As they transformed on stage from band to band, elegantly dressed in their most stylish dresses reflecting stardom with each sequent, the audience became part of the journey. Singing and clapping in the background, the members of the audience began to remember the moments that first heard these hits and the important life events that were connected to them.
“Baby, baby I’m aware of where you go
Each time you leave my door
I watch you walk down the street
Knowing your other love you’ll meet
But this time before you run to her
Leaving me alone and hurt
(Think it over) After I’ve been good to you
(Think it over) After I’ve been sweet to you” – The Supremes
As the energy and power of the performances accelerated in strength like the evolution of the tape recorder to a Bose surround sound system, the powerful messages that these hits provided commanded a level of attention. Throughout the years, the music evolved with the cultural struggles for equality and equal rights. When the single declaration of “RESPECT” came center of stage, the feeling of empowerment was at a height for the evening.
A theme of togetherness, harmony, sisterhood, courage and a message of love all wrapped together as the entire cast closed the evening with a collaborative performance of “Dream Girls”
Dreamgirls will help you through the night!
Dreamgirls will make you feel alright!
Dreamgirls keep you dreamin’ your whole life through…
Yeah, Dreamgirls can make your dreams come true!”
During and after the performance, we observed our surroundings. The stage was ordained with steps of gold and cabaret style seating created an up close oval putting us inside the performance. The wall decor resembled an early 20th Century New York style skyscraper and the wait staff, in their welcoming poodle skirts and neck scarves filled our pallets with wine and champagne.
After the performance, in a quiet deserted theater, Scott Pfeiffer sat down with us for a few minutes. Scott was across the table with his hair combed to the right, his bright yellow stage jacket and legged crossed. Relaxed, he sat, but there was still a part of him debriefing from the evening’s performance. We discussed his past and his vision for the future. One message rang personally true; a successful live performance draws the audience into to an emotional place where they can connect with material and take them to a place away from their own reality.
Musical theater has the power to engage, reflect and remind us of things and places we may have forgotten in our own lives. We expect a bright future from the Charleston Performing Arts Theater Company.
For some, the girl band movement of the 1950’s and 60’s was a flashback to a time of youth and innocence. For others, it was a period of influence that sculpted the musical movements of today. No matter what connection was made, the contribution these young ladies gave to American music with their courage and blessed voices will never be forgotten. The next time you listen to Adele, Lady Gaga or Whitney Houston, remember the gifts they provide us would not be a reality without the powerful Dreamgirls paving the way.
Dreamgirls, The Revue, located at 873 Folly Road, James Island, SC will be playing at the Charleston Performing Arts everything Thursday, Friday and Saturday through March 26, 2016