By Kim Lyle
One female singing trio from Chicago, one far-reaching dream, and one big break that sends everything else spiraling out of control are the foundation of the musical, Dreamgirls.
This week, the famous Broadway show will make its way to the capital city all thanks to the efforts of the New Venture Theatre. Opening night is set for July 15 at the Manship Theatre, with shows running for the following four consecutive nights.
The musical is loosely based on such R&B acts as the Shirelles and the Supremes, chronicling their serendipitous ascent into stardom and the inevitable tribulations that followed. And while the story will be the same this time around, audiences can look forward to witnessing more than a mere duplicate. The New Venture Theatre has taken creative license in deciding to stray far from the original that first appeared on Broadway in 1981.
“It’ll have more punch,” said Artistic Director Greg Williams, Jr. “We’ve made it more about the human story. The dark moments are really dark and the lighter moments are much lighter.”
And this is where the New Venture Theatre excels. They have made it their mission to bring challenging, unique, and bold theatrical experiences to the Baton Rouge community.
“Many times people complain about there being nothing to do in Baton Rouge,” said Williams. “We want to stress that this is a local production, and that people should come out and support this local art.”
Along with creating art locally comes the opportunity to discover some serious talent where it may not have been noticed before. Two of the show’s leading actresses, Chloé Marie Johnson and Michelle Dunbar, are prime examples. Each were already active in the Baton Rouge music community, but through very different endeavors. Williams first noticed Dunbar at a local church service where her voice literally brought the crowd to its feet. Stunned by her performance, he encouraged her to audition for the show. Johnson, on the other hand, is a part of a popular local indie band, which allows her to bring a completely different perspective to the material.
Dreamgirls, as with many other New Venture Theatre productions, has become a platform where such diverse talents are able to shine both on and off the stage. This collision of cultures, personalities, and styles only make the productions more engaging.
Spanning several decades and demanding serious vocal talent, Dreamgirls was not the easiest of shows to breathe life into. However, after two months of grueling rehearsals and preparation, the hard work was well placed.
The show promises to be one full of raw emotion, dramatic theatrics, and the heartache that inevitably comes with a story about a broken dream.
Tickets are now on sale for $25 each and can be purchased online at newventuretheatre.org.