Opening at the Savoy Theatre last year to multi-Olivier success, the original London cast recording of Dreamgirls has just been released, offering fans and newcomers alike a chance to recall or simply just savour the show's power and impact.
Captured over 4 nights' performances in February 2017 and produced by the show's composer Henry Krieger himself, the engineering standards of the recording are impressive – and whilst there is a perceptible live-theatre aura to the collected songs, the fidelity of both music and voice is virtually flawless.
Spread across 2 CDs, the 28 tracks are heavy on narrative - and if there is a criticism of the writing it could be that aside from a handful of sensational numbers, too many of the songs lack a lyrical wit. That being said, the big numbers are sensational. Dreamgirls (and its finale'd reprise) captures the pulse of the Motown-esque sound that Krieger aims for, while as Effie White, Amber Riley is of course sensational with the show's signature tune One Night Only and its showstopping act one closer, And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going that belts out of one’s speakers or headphones. Great music to drive to too!
The vocal excellence of the company stands out on the recording - Adam J. Bernard's Jimmy Early is a mini powerhouse, while any opportunity to hear Tyrone Huntley, a young actor who stands head and shoulders above his British peers and who plays C. C. White in the show, is a treat.
Remember though that this is a live recording. And so, when Riley simply walks on stage without having sung a word to make her nightly debut, the audience's gleeful whoops of delight are recorded on the CD too. Call me old fashioned perhaps but for years, on this side of the Atlantic at least, audiences have applauded in recognition of a job well done - rather than cheering on a star for simply showing up. How times change....
But, and make no mistake. Dreamgirls in the West End is playing to electrified packed houses night after night. Listen to this album and you can understand why!