Talented cast gives dazzling performance

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The opening-night performance of “Dreamgirls” at Greenwood Little Theatre Thursday proved that with enough talent and hard work, dreams can indeed come true.

Directed by Mississippi Valley State University music professor and musician Alphonso Sanders, the play and its well-known film adaptation are a bit soft on plot and character development but solid on musical content that this cast, made up largely of Valley students, delivered with style, humor and determination.

“Dreamgirls” tells the story of a 1960s girl group, the Dreamettes, its climb to stardom and the detour of one of its members, Effie, who struggles but ultimately finds her own way.

Covering the span of nearly a decade, the play also delves into the nature of the popular music industry that often sacrifices artistic vision for wider commercial appeal.

The GLT production relies on a bare-bones set, sharp period costuming, high energy and a superb stage band featuring MVSU students Elijah Anderson and Michael Searcy on keyboards and bass, Valley professor Ben Arnold on drums and Sanders on saxophone and trumpet.

The first act, with no less than 17 musical numbers, moves at a brisk clip and sets a joyous tone, including a dance number featuring the supporting cast that had the audience howling.

An ensemble of lead performers does a fine job with the song, “Family,” before the tide turns and the spotlight begins to focus more on Effie, the star of the second act played exquisitely by Morgan Johnson.

Johnson’s strong and controlled vocals elevate the show each time they are featured, especially in Act Two.

Her rendition of “I Am Changing,” with straightforward delivery, no visual distraction and palpable emotion, is a show-stopper.

(Note to random audience members who love musicals: Regardless how much you love the song and know every lyric, please do not sing along with the soloist. She deserves to be heard without backup.)

Stopping the show nearly every time he appears onstage is Greenville-based performer Albert Folk in the role of Jimmy “Thunder” Early, a soulful R&B singer with rough edges that his producer hopes to iron out in order to broaden the performer’s audience.

Folk’s moment in the second act — when Jimmy bucks the molding and declares “Jimmy got soul!” — is raucous and delightfully over the top.

Altogether, the experience of “Dreamgirls” is to enter the dream of youthful ambition and enterprise, powerfully on display through this young and hugely talented cast.

Alicia Dallas