Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Legend of Georgia McBride - Music Theater of CT

Poor Casey, a so-so Elvis impersonator plying his trade at a rundown bar on the Florida panhandle.  The audience is sparse, the money negligible, and the sudden need to support a growing family is a pressing concern.  His luck suddenly changes when, due to unforeseen circumstances, he is literally thrust on stage in a drag show revue with a new guise and attitude.

 

Thus begins The Legend of Georgia McBride, a diverting, slender offering from playwright Matthew Lopez.  The show runs through March 3 at the Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC). 

 

There are moments of seriousness and poignancy and themes of sexual identity and self-acceptance are explored, but the material covered in the play offers only a smattering of dramatic substance that never really explores these issues in depth.  The highlight of the production is the lip-syncing performances that are enjoyable and comical.

 

Casey (Clint Hromsco) is at the center of the show.  His character, however, is hard to decipher.  Initially, he comes across as a very immature man-child, but in no time at all transforms into a more thoughtful, serious-minded individual.  He is married to an understanding, but rather exasperated wife (Teagan La’Shary).  Their neighbor/landlord Jason (Diva Lamarr), a childhood friend, drops in every so often about the overdue rent and provides sagely banter.  Eddie (Scott Mikita), the owner of the dive, looking to drum up business, brings in his cousin and friend, drag performers Miss Tracy (Russell Saylor) and Rexy (Diva Lamarr).  The interaction between the three performers, focusing on Casey’s slow-forming transformation, shapes the basis and modest dramatic arc of the show.

 

Any successful production of the show is based on the quality of the generous helpings of the drag performances.  For this staging, Director Kevin Connors has pulled out all the stops in delivering one outrageous, entertaining number after another.  Diane Vanderkroef’s inspired costumes, along with Jon Damast’s crisp sound design help the musical interludes completely shine.

 

While the scenes in the bar are mostly engaging, the at-home sequences are rather uninteresting and conventional.  The only truly emotional outburst comes late in the show when the character of Rexy delivers a fiery speech about the living the life of drag.

 

Overall, the cast is fine, as they provide enough definition and substance to convey a genuineness and conviction to their roles.   There are three notable performers.  Clint Hromsco as Casey in his guise as Georgia McBride, where his portrayal is more nuanced and appealing.  Russell Saylor, provides a world-weariness to Miss Tracy, and individual with sage advice and a heart of gold.  Scott Mikita’s Eddie, with his deadpan delivery and well-timed dance moves, was a crowd favorite.

 

Director Connors moves the play along at an agreeable pace, allowing the domestic scenes to provide information for the lackluster backstory.  He skillfully incorporates April M. Bartlett’s scenic design, which has adeptly sectioned the cramped stage into three distinct sets, not an easy feat of the small MTC performing space.

 

The Legend of Georgia McBride runs through March 2 at MTC.  Click here for date, time and ticket information.

A View From the Bridge - Long Wharf Theater

Gut-wrenching was my first thought as I walked from the Canal Dock Boathouse, the site-specific locale for Long Theater’s outstanding production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, playing through March 10The play is brimming with emotional intricacies, cast with an impressive group of actors, and skillfully directed by James Dean Palmer.
 
The setting is the Brooklyn waterfront.  The indoor performance space Long Wharf has created is a small, raked theater that overlooks the New Haven harbor.  Floor-to-ceiling windows behind You-Shin Chen’s minimally designed, but highly effective set, provides a panoramic perspective of the waterway, with large boats moored on the far bank, smaller crafts sailing past, and seagulls darting in and out of sight.  The scenic design extends to an outdoor wraparound balcony, adorned with nautical detritus, where some scenes, including the show’s climatic finale, take place.
 
A View From the Bridge focuses on Eddie Carbone (Dominic Fumusa), a longshoreman; his wife, Beatrice (Annie Parisse) and their 18-year-old niece Catherine (Paten Hughes), who lives with the couple.  Their domestic life is humble and unassuming until the arrival of brothers, distant cousins, from Italy.  They have been smuggled into the country illegally so they can find work and better their lives.  Marco (Antonio Magro), older than his sibling with a family to support in his homeland and Rodolpho (Mark Junek) are all too eager to make their way.  However, when the younger brother and Catherine begin a romance, Eddie’s inward feelings towards his niece take an ominous turn, which becomes the catalyst to a sorrowful and heartbreaking conclusion.
 
Arthur Miller, one of the giants of the American Theater, has fashioned a captivating play full of conflicting emotions, deeply complicated and flawed characters.  He effectively injects age-old themes of family and honor into the show.  With the debate about illegal immigration in today’s world, his insertion of the topic into the storyline gives the plot a contemporary feel.  The overall structure of the work is deeply gratifying – a two-act show that slowly builds into a stunning crescendo.  It’s hard to find modern-day shows that are so well constructed and satisfying.
 
James Dean Palmer’s superior direction focuses on the characters and their actions.  He emphasizes small, yet important details such as facial ticks and body language to develop fully drawn portrayals.  There is a playfulness to the production, but he slowly teases out the underlining tension and threatening nature of the play.  He artfully incorporates both staging areas, producing a fully realized, out-of-the-box experience.
 
The cast is first-rate, led by Dominio Fumusa as Eddie, a man whose world slowly spins out of control.  He brings a complexity, honesty, and raw energy to the role.  You feel for him as well as fear him.  Annie Parisse is exquisite as Beatrice, a woman tightly wound with frustration and unhappiness with her life.  Paten Hughes gives a decidedly deceptive portrayal of Catherine.  At first naïve and unfulfilled, she blossoms into a young woman who knows who she is and what she wants from the world.  Mark Junek’s portrayal of the fun-loving Rodolpho adds a humorous respite from friction felt in the household.  Antonio Magro brings a more subdued presence to the role of Marco.  Patricia Black offers a muted performance as the lawyer and sometime narrator, Alfieri.
 
A View From the Bridge, one of the prominent productions of the current Connecticut theater season.  A show not to be missed.  Click here for dates, times and ticket information.
 

 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Garbologist - Theaterworks Hartford

Danny, a blue-collar, 9-year veteran of the New York sanitation department has just been paired with Marlowe, a female rookie with an Ivy League education.  The unlikely coupling provides a beguiling and playful premise for Lindsay Joelle’s comedy/drama, The Garbologists.  When the show delves into the machinations and terminology of these workers, the production is engaging and fun to watch.  However, once the narrative shifts to personal stories and their subsequent complications, the play’s appeal wanes.


Bebe Nicole Simpson and Jeff Brooks in The Garbologist.  Photo by Mike Marques.

We meet Danny (Jeff Brooks), a straightforward, down-to-earth “garbologist” as he greets his new partner, Marlowe (Bebe Nicole Simpson), a Columbia University graduate with two Master’s degrees.  It is a classic fish out-of-water beginning with Danny trying to show Marlowe the ropes.  Resistant to his help, at first, she finally succumbs to his persistence and their relationship begins, more or less, to develop.  As the 95-minute, intermission-less production progresses, the audience learns more of each protagonist’s backstory, which portions comes across as artificial and forced.  By the show’s conclusion, each has a better understanding and appreciation of the other’s circumstances.  Their initially tepid association has moved forward and matured.

 

The strength of The Garbologist is how playwright Lindsay Joelle incorporates genuine situations faced by sanitation workers and the generous use of authentic lingo sprinkled throughout the production.  It gives the play an entertaining trait and an air of truthfulness.  Ms. Joelle is able to humanize these “invisible” laborers, individuals that are critical to a habitable society.

 

Bebe Nicole Simpson and Jeff Brooks in The Garbologist.  Photo by Mike Marques.

An issue, though, with the play is the lack of a fuller backstory for Marlowe.  We are supplied snippets of her life and struggles, but not enough to create a fully developed character.  As an Ivy League educated woman, she secures a position as a sanitation worker.  Why?  What is her rationale?  Is it because of the “reveal” at the end of the play which, realistically, would not be too feasible?  

 

Jeff Brooks gives a confident, nuanced performance as Danny.  His character comes across as earthy, matter-of-fact, and believable.  Bebe Nicole Simpson’s Marlowe is more of a challenge.  She is damaged, we learn through the course of the production, which impedes her affect to the degree that her aloofness and subtlety are frustrating. 

 

Director Rob Ruggiero provides his usual solid guidance, smoothly segueing between each scene.  The aspects of the play centered around the hauling of garbage are effective and appealing.  The portions of the show that are intimate and reflective are more conventionally portrayed.  The interactions between the characters would have been more fluid if there was more shading with the character of Marlowe 

 

Marcelo Martinez Garcia’s Set Design deserves high praise.  The garbage bags strewn across the stage is just a prelude to the appearance of a life-size, realistic looking, and operating, garbage truck (the backside at least).  My only question with the set is the intended purpose of scaffolding at the back of the performance area.

 

The Garbologist, playing at Theaterworks Hartford through February 25.  Click here for dates, times, and ticket information.


Friday, February 2, 2024

Simona's Search - Hartford Stage

Simona’s Search, receiving its world premiere at Hartford Stage, is an engrossing drama that delves into the relationship between an immigrant father and his daughter and, as stated in the program notes, “the passing on of traumatic experiences to subsequent generations that is sometimes prevalent with immigrant families.”  

 

Alejandra Escalante in Simona's SearchPhoto by T. Charles Erickson

Director Melia Bensussen has staged a very theatrical presentation, utilizing timely and striking projections by Projection Designer Yana Biryukova to augment the story and enhance its power.  Aja M. Jackson’s Lighting Design and the Sound Design by Aubrey Dube are also noteworthy and add depth to the production.  Yu Shibagaki ‘s continuously reconfigured Scenic Design is straightforward – a table, chairs, slatted wood background – and works harmoniously with the other design elements, primarily the dramatic projections.

 

Simona’s Search is essentially a memory play with Simona (Alejandra Escalante) speaking to the audience for the majority of the show.  Her story begins when she is a young girl, constantly questioning her father, Papi (Al Rodrigo), about his life and their shared culture.  A political exile from an unnamed Latin American country, he has completely shunned his previous life and offers no information or clues to his daughter.  He won’t even teach or speak Spanish to her.  As she grows up, she realizes he has been suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder and, more critically, wonders if she, too, might be developing signs of trauma.

 

Christopher Bannow and Alejandra Escalante in Simona's SearchPhoto by T. Charles Erickson

Nightmares, and a spectral figure, haunt her dreams, causing an acute lack of sleep.  Much doesn’t change in college.  A romantic relationship blossoms, but goes nowhere.  Her focus on neuroscience, both as an undergraduate and graduate student, produces no answers to understanding her father, his worsening medical condition, and her dispirited mindset and health.  By the show’s conclusion, however, there is a palpable, self-awareness that, while not answering all Simona’s questions and concerns, helps ease her to a more adjusted life.

 

Playwright Martin Zimmerman has constructed a play that almost seems torn from today’s headlines about the migrant crisis and heartbreaking reports of immigrant families ripped apart at the border.  Watching Simona’s Search, one can’t help but wonder about the mental health of the newcomer’s children later in life.  Zimmerman roots his work with a number of themes for audiences to reflect on – nature vs. nuture, the question of one’s identity, and the cause/effect of trauma.  He has crafted connections which come across as real and honest. This includes the sometimes contentious relationship between Simona and Papi and the young woman and her romantic interest Jake (Christopher Bannow).  He adorns the show with scenes of playful passion, mischievous wit, and hardened truths.  These include Jake’s wooing of Simona and her dreamy encounter with a lab rat.  For all its captivating power, I sometimes felt the pathway towards the show’s conclusion was uneven and portions were contrived to move the plot forward.  More specifically, the scene concerning her on and off travel plans due to her father’s mysterious ailment and her admission to a second graduate school program.  Still, these detours do not undercut the absorbing nature of the play, which is continuously augment by Director Bensussen’s flourishes of imagination, emotional highs and lows and charm.

Al Rodrigo and Alejandra Escalante in Simona's SearchPhoto by T. Charles Erickson

The cast, led by Alejandra Escalante as Simona, is superb.  Ms. Escalante brings self-assuredness, intensity, and a dash of whimsy to her portrayal as actress and narrator.  It is a demanding role, especially since she is onstage during the entire 90-minute, intermission-less show.  Al Rodrigo imbues Papi (and a few other characters) with a forceful passion that ebbs and flows between casual banter and angry ripostes.  He effectively portrays a character, proud, but shrouded in mystery.  Christopher Bannow, as Jake, provides a finely tuned performance of compassion and sensitivity, serving almost as a counterweight to the extremes of the other characters.  His rat impersonation, who’s accent is sometimes hard to understand, was a memorable part of the play.

 

Simona’ Search, a world premiere worth catching.  Playing at Hartford Stage through February 11, 2024.  Click here for dates, times, and ticket information.

 

 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson – Apt. 2B - Playhouse on Park

There have been countless derivations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s masterful detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson in film, television and the theater.  A new entry into this ever-expanding universe is Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson – Apt. 2B.  The show is at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford through February 18.

 
As a long-time Sherlock Holmes fan, I welcome any addition to works about the iconic sleuth.  Unfortunately, playwright Kate Hamill’s contribution to the Holmes canon falls short with overstuffed intrigue, a lot of unnecessary schtick, and an unfocused plot that is hard to follow.  Ms. Hamill has had a great deal of success with her gender-bender take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  For that work, she had the luxury of riffing on a classic piece of literature.  With Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson – Apt. 2B, she needed to craft an original mystery with comic overtones.  Not an easy task.
Kelly Letourneau and Kirsten Peacock in Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson - Apt. 2B

 
The time is the present and we are quickly introduced to Joan Watson, a spunky, though slightly introverted American seeking solace from her previous life (the first mystery!).  She lets a room, Apt. 2B (presumably at 221B Baker Street) from the daffy landlady Mrs. Hudson and is abruptly introduced to the eccentric, melancholy detective Sherlock (yes, it is also a woman’s name) Holmes.  They bicker and banter until the arrival of Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard who needs their help.  The game is suddenly afoot and for the next 2 ½ hours there is murder, mayhem, and surprises.  Familiar characters from the Holmes books – Irene Adler and Professor Moriarity – are woven into the production.  However, by the show’s conclusion, all the twists and turns appear disjointed and prove to be unsatisfying.
 
Director Kelly O’Donnell, who last year won a Connecticut Critics Circle Award as Best Director for Indecent at Playhouse on Park, keeps the tempo at a heightened speed.  Her staging around the few set pieces in Lindsay G. Fuori’s booklined Scenic Design are positioned around the stage with rapid-fire pacing.   The direction, utilizing Johann Fitzpatrick’s cagey Light Design and Rachel Landry’s jokey Sound Design, can be goofy, droll and sporadically entertaining.  There are intermittent laughs especially from the frequent cultural references (Star Wars, among others) scattered throughout the script.  Most zip by with fleeting acknowledgement.  The brief homage to the Batman TV series, however, does find its humorous mark.
 
Kelly Letourneau and Kirsten Peacock in Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson - Apt. 2B

The cast is game for the mischievousness and roguishness unleashed by the playwright.  The four performers work hard to generate the irregular laughs.  While there is ample time to develop their respective characters, they still seem more two-dimensional than fully realized.  Kirsten Peacock’s portrayal of the world famous private investigator is somewhat staid, with only fleeting instances of playfulness.  Kelly Letourneau imbues Joan Watson with a spirited determination, but her characterization is undermined by a constant reference to her cagey past and anguish.  Megan McDermott, playing multiple roles, primarily Mrs. Hudson and arch nemesis Irene Adler, seems to be having a lot of fun with her portrayals, playing them broadly and slightly off-center.  Nick Nudler provides a number of satisfying looks, whether it is as the lumbering Inspector Lestrade; the wealthy Elliott Monk or the diabolical Professor Moriarity.
 
Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson – Apt. 2B, running through February 18 at Playhouse on Park.  Click here for information on dates, times and tickets.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

The Salvagers - Yale Repertory Theatre

Relationships and sense of identity are at the heart of the absorbing play, The Salvagers, receiving its world premiere at the Yale Repertory Theatre through December 16.  There are a number of puzzling plot points and choices that playwright Harrison David Rivers needs to address, though, in order for his work to be fully realized.

Taylor A. Blackman and Julian Elijah Martinez in a scene from THE SALVAGERS by Harrison David Rivers. Photo © Joan Marcus.


 

Boseman Salvage Junior (Taylor A. Blackman), referred to simply as Junior, is a would-be actor that couldn’t break into the business in New York City so he has returned home to Chicago and moved into his father’s home, Boseman Salvage Senior (Julian Elijah Martinez).  The two have had a fraught rapport, since the divorce from his now ex-wife.  Still, the young man continues to live under his father’s roof.  Junior, in his early 20’s, is angry, unsure, and searching for his play in the world.   In between acting auditions, he is employed at a local restaurant.  Senior is a locksmith with no office.  He is just perpetually on-call.  The husband’s former wife, Nedra (Toni Martin), remains a modest presence in her son’s life.  Enter into the mix two women - Elinor DeWitt (McKenzie Chinn) and Paulina Kenston (Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew).  Through happenstance, Elinor begins a relationship with Senior while Junior becomes intrigued with co-worker Paulina.  How their respective relationships evolve – the ups and downs – along with the sustained dynamic between Senior and Junior forms the latter part of the play.

 

McKenzie Chinn and Julian Elijah Martinez in a scene from THE SALVAGERS by Harrison David Rivers. Photo © Joan Marcus.


The three women in the show are strong, smart, and more forthcoming with their feelings as opposed to the men who are portrayed, to varying degrees, as damaged goods.  We don’t truly know the backstory of Senior and Junior so it is difficult to understand their trepidations.  When the “reveal” is divulged near the end of the show it leads to more questions than answers.  This, in addition to other puzzling scenes and plot points, is the crux of the problem with The Salvagers.  Some examples (without giving away too much):

  • Why was Junior in therapy and on medication (which we are reminded of a few times at the beginning of the play)?  Except for a necessary plot point, nothing is explained.
  • Senior had a very fractious and volatile relationship with his son, yet Junior still stays.  Why not leave and live with mom?
  • After the “reveal,” the ongoing connection between Senior and his ex-wife Neda becomes very confusing.
  • The involvement of Elinor with the “reveal” comes across as contrived.

Lastly, while I always enjoy a feel-good ending, the show would have had more of a dramatic impact if it ended on the preceding scene.

Taylor A. Blackman in a scene from THE SALVAGERS by Harrison David Rivers. 

Photo © Joan Marcus.


 

Director Mikael Burke presents a very straightforward rendering of the playwright’s work.  He marches through scenes even if they are somewhat baffling and unnecessary such as the moment with Junior and his lighter. The use of overlapping dialogue and multiple characters performing in the same scene are skillfully staged.  The Director smoothly incorporates quick, choreographed flourishes by Tislarm Bouie, such as the snow shoveling sequence at the start of the show, giving moments of the production a whimsical charm.  Less successful is the set devised by B Entsminger -  an oversized, snowy ice mass that towers over the performance space.  A black meshed screen, pulled across the stage during most of the play, does offer separation between the looming mass and the minimal scenic design.  John Horzen’s projections help define the Chicago locale, but unexpectantly end halfway through the show.  They would have had a fuller effect if used throughout the production.  Lighting Designer Nic Vincent’s dark, moody set-up gives the feel of a chilly, inhospitable Midwestern winter. 

 

Taylor A. Blackman and Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew in a scene from THE SALVAGERS by Harrison David Rivers. Photo © Joan Marcus.


The cast is marvelous, led by Taylor A. Blackman as Boseman Salvage Junior.  The actor gives an accurate read on a young man with so many highs and lows to his life.  He is at times petulant, immature, and angry as he tries to find his place in life.  Julian Elijah Martinez’s effectively presents Boseman Salvage Senior as a man attempting to connect to a son he doesn’t really understand.  His portrayal can be intense and forceful, but also compassionate and more understanding as he, too, manages an assortment of relationships.  Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew imbues Paulina Kenston with intelligence and self-assurance even as she looks to connect with others.  I was impressed with her performance.  She does need to speak louder to be better understood.  McKenzie Chinn’s Elinor DeWitt, like the character of Paulina, is strong and understanding.  The actress gives a compelling, no-nonsense performance.  Toni Martin is solid in the role of Nedra Salvage.  Besides an explanatory monologue near the play’s conclusion, her character has a small presence in the show.

 

Even with all my reservations The Salvagers is a show worth attending.  Flawed, yes, but the whole of the play is greater than its sum parts.

 

The Salvagers, playing through December 16 at the Yale Repertory Theatre.  Click here for information on dates, times and ticket information.


Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Dreamgirls - Goodspeed Opera House

Show business is a business, according to Curtis Taylor, Jr., the hard-driving, controlling manager of The Dreams.  It is tough, full of shattered hopes and desires and broken promises.  This is the overriding theme in the Goodspeed Opera House’s absorbing, sometimes dazzling production of Dreamgirls.  The musical, which takes its inspiration from the girl groups of the 1960’s, primarily The Supremes, is slow to find its footing.  It’s not until most of Act I has passed that the show begins to find its dramatic and emotional core.  The musical solidifies its dynamic groove as Act I comes to a close and the actress Trejah Bostic, who plays Effie, takes the stage to belt out the soulful, angst-filled signature number, “An I’m Telling You.”

Keirsten Hodgens, Ta-Tynisa Wilson and Shantel Cribbs in Goodspeed's Dreamgirls. Photo by Diane Sobolewski

The show starts as the three teenage Dreamettes - Deena Jones (Ta-Tynisa Wilson), Lorrell Robinson (Kiersten Hodgens) and Effie White (Trejah Bostic), along with Effie’s songwriting brother C.C. (Jos N. Banks) – enter New York City’s famed Apollo Theater talent show.  Even though they lose, they meet a number of men who will be influential in their rise to stardom – Marty (Robert Cornelius), Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Evan Tyrone Martin) and Jimmy Early (Mykal Kilgore).  Fame, though, has its price and as the renamed group, The Dreams, rise to stardom each member’s drive and sacrifice cost plenty.  Effie, friends with the other founding members of the group, is unceremoniously dumped for a prettier young woman.  Her story arc in Act II runs parallel to The Dreams’, but is more gritty and difficult.  In the end, there are heartaches and breakups, but the four women survive, stronger and in control of their own destiny.

 

The book by Tom Eyen covers a lot of ground, from the birth of The Dreams through their rise to stardom and eventual break-up.  Act I is slightly disjointed as portrayals are developed and situations established.  By Act II Eyen is able to breathe more life into the characters, giving them depth and nuance, creating well-rounded characters that the audience cares about and responds to.

 

Mykal Kilgore with Ta-Tynisa Wilson, Trejah Bostic and Keirsten Hodgens in Goodspeed's Dreamgirls. Photo by Diane Sobolewski.

He also weaves in a number of issues that were becoming current to the music business during this time frame.  Rhythm and Blues began crossing over to the pop charts and becoming more accepted by white audiences.  Black artists began taking more control of their careers, both in the limelight and behind the scenes.  Throughout Dreamgirls, the men are dominant and call the shots.  By the end, the tables have turned as the individual women blaze their own pathways, on their own terms. 

 

The lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger aptly reflect the time and style of the show’s 60’s – 70’s vibe.  The score is full of memorable songs that cross a number of genres from pop to soul.  There is the high-energy “One Night Only” and “Dreamgirls,” the soulful “Steppin’ to the Bad Side,” the poignant “Hard to Say Goodbye, (My Love),” and the heartbreaking “Family.”

 

Trejah Bostic, Ta-Tynisa Wilson and Keirsten Hodgens with the cast of Goodspeed's Dreamgirls. Photo by Diane Sobolewski.

Director Lili-Anne Brown smoothly and efficiently guides the show, with its numerous scene and costume changes, with skillful aplomb.  She utilizes Arnel Sancianco’s Scenic Design, an arced prosemium stage, arrayed with lightbulbs, to simulate a feel for the characters being constantly in the spotlight. At the back of the performance space he has included large speaker-like pieces that incorporate just one aspect of Jason Lynch and Adam Honore’s vibrant Lighting Design.  The Director smoothly incorporates Choreographer Breon Arzell’s sleek, synchopated dance steps for The Dreams and the character of Jimmy Early.  Ms. Brown sucessfully overcomes the somewhat sluggish start of the show to conclude with a production full of depth and pathos.

 

All around, the cast was marvelous.  Ta-Tynisa Wilson is outstanding as Deena Jones, thrust into the limelight just at The Dreams make it big.  The actress gives a multi-layered performance as she transforms from naïve teenager to a sophisticated, world-weary glamour star.  Trejah Bostic’s Effie White is the heart and soul of the musical.  She plays the role beautifully, creating the most well-developed portrayal in the show.  By the show’s end, her character is the one most at peace with her choices.  Kiersten Hodgens, as back-up singer Lorrell Robinson, holds her own with her more exuberant castmates.  Shantel Cribbs is elegant and adept as Effie’s replacement Michelle Morris.

 

Keirsten Hodgens, Ta-Tynisa Wilson and Shantel Cribbs in Goodspeed's Dreamgirls. Photo by Diane Sobolewski.

Evan Tyrone Martin (Curtis Taylor, Jr.) has the most significant male role of the show.  His character is divisive as he winningly shifts from seat-of-your-pants hustler to a forceful, svengali presence.  While the actor delivers a superb performance, it could have been more nuanced.  Mykal Kilgore (Jimmy Early) gives a slick, high-powered portrayal that convincingly shifts from self-absorbed artist to one that shows more humility.  Robert Cornelius (Marty), Early’s one-time manager, brings a showbiz weariness to his role.  Jos N. Banks is sound in the underwritten role of C.C. White.

 

Costume Designer Samantha C. Jones has crafted a kingsize closet full of flashy, eye-popping costumes, primarily for the women of The Dreams.  There are so many costume changes throughout the show, I lost count.  The designs for the men are more subdued but, especially with the character of Curtis Taylor, Jr., parallel his growth with sleekier, more contemporary outfits.  Mention also needs to go to Earon Chew Nealey for the numerous stylish hair pieces she has crafted.  The coiff for Deena Jones during a photo shoot was especially impressive.

 

Dreamgirls, playing at the Goodspeed Opera House through December 30.  Click here dates, times, and ticket information.