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REVIEW: Hard to say good-bye to MunOpCo’s 'Dreamgirls'

Dreamgirls reprise.jpg
MunOpCo Music Theatre
Cast members of Munopco Music Theatre's "Dreamgirls," left to right: Taylor Hood, Krystle Tate, Arianna Rodriguez and Rebekah Gray.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Most of us are familiar with "Dreamgirls" through the 2006 film that garnered Jennifer Hudson an Oscar.

Some might even remember the 1981 Broadway production with Jennifer Holliday.

However, regional productions are few and far between. MunOpCo Music Theatre in Allentown closes its 96th season with a mesmerizing production of the musical.

The story by Tom Eyen allegedly is based on the rise and separation of the well-known Motown superstars The Supremes.

In the MunOpCo production, we are first introduced to The Dreamettes, a trio of young female singers, when they are chosen as back-up singers for rising star James “Thunder” Early (aka Jimmy).

It doesn’t take long for Curtis Taylor to convince the group that they deserve their own spotlight and he agrees to manage them.

The trio evolved to Deena Jones and the Dreams as Curtis singles out Deena (think Diana Ross) as the lead singer. Obviously, that doesn't bode well with the current lead singer Effie White. The story continues as their popularity grows as behind-the-scenes dissension threatens to break up the group.

The Dreamettes are portrayed by Arianna Rodriguez as Deena, Krystle Tate as Effie and Taylor Hood as Lorrell. A later replacement to the group is played by Rebekah Gray as Michelle.

One Night Only Krystle Tate as Effie.jpg
MunOpCo Music Theatre
Krystle Tate as Effie sings "One Night Only" in MunOpCo Music Theatre's "Dreamgirls" at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Allentown.

Tate’s star turn arrives as her powerhouse voice belts out the well-known anthems “I Am Changing," “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going" and “One Night Only."

Her performance alone is worth the price of your ticket.

Tyree Scott's frenetic and energized antics as Jimmy stand out, and likely would be met with rousing applause at venues like Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. But his fine performance seemed lost on the audience during last weekend's show at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. He didn't receive the accolades he truly deserved.

As overbearing manager Curtis Taylor Jr., actor Marcell McKenzie constantly professes his love for Deena and possesses a sultry voice most evident in his standout number “You Are My Dream.”

TyRonn Brewington plays a multitude of roles as the emcee opening the show, a TruTone, and Tuxedo. He has an appealing stage presence and is a joy to watch dance in a small ensemble number.

An overhead walkway and steps are the most notable set pieces as smaller props are moved on and off stage throughout the show.

Unfortunately, a very capable 14-piece orchestra is placed center stage and uses most of the available area. The orchestra, conducted by David Mascari, played composer Henry Krieger’s score masterfully, yet at times was overbearing and drowned out dialogue onstage. A noticeable audio technical difficulty at the start of the show may have caused this and hopefully can be corrected for future performances.

A shimmering backdrop and marquee-type lights surrounding the stage effectively give the feeling of sitting within a casino showroom — and basic choreography moved the show scene by scene.

Another notable “star” of the production is the costume design masterfully crafted by Nate Kuhns and Connie Santos.

I attempted to count the numerous costume changes but lost count somewhere after 20. As the trio’s sequined, sparkling, and dazzling wardrobe appears, each gets better and better until the ultimate breathtaking gowns for the show’s finale.

MunOpCo’s production has three more performances this weekend, March 3-5.

As the show’s closing number states, it will be “Hard To Say Goodbye” to this well-produced local musical.

Theater enthusiast Don Simon is financial administrator at Lehigh Valley Public Media.