Chaz Lamar Shepherd

*In just a few days theatre goers in LA can doll up and relive the 1960s rise to fame chronicle that’s supposedly based on the tale of young Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson of the legendary Supremes. In other words, “Dreamgirls” officially arrives in Los Angeles on March 2. Previews of the Broadway classic begin today at the CTG/Ahmanson theatre

With great shoes to fill, so far, the new production, directed by Robert Longbottom, is living up to expectations in cities nationwide. Critics from Harlem to Columbus, Ohio say the cast delivers and the performances are dazzling.

When asked, Chaz Lamar Shepherd, who plays Curtis Taylor, Jr., the character played by Jamie Fox in the motion picture version said yes, the new theater version shares some similarities to the film.

But, on the other hand, “It doesn’t resemble the movie,” Shepherd said.  All the same, “[Longbottom’s] “Dreamgirls” is presented in such a magnificent and high class way that [audiences] can’t help but be impressed,” he said.  

“Dreamgirls,” from DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures was a box office success. It was released in 2006 with all-star cast including Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Anika Noni Rose.

This new rendition of the six time Tony Award winning 1981 production has a hopeful new cast of up-and-comings that include the seventh season “American Idol” second runner-up Syesha Mercado; Adrienne Warren; Chaz Lamar Shepherd (who’s co-starred in TV shows including “7th Heaven,” The Parkers,” “The Game,” and played Harpo on Broadway’s “The Color Purple”); Chester Gregory (who played Jackie Wilson in the “Jackie Wilson story”); Trevon Davis (one of the seven finalists of BET’s “Sunday Best”); Margarette Hoffman; Milton Craig Nealy and introduces Moya Angela.

What else is different?

Shepherd who is also an R&B/Soul singer said: although the music is the same, “The style of singing is updated … the way ‘Dreamgirls’ was done originally was closer to the way Broadway musicals were done [back in 1981] and also the way singing was done back then,” her told EUR’s Lee Bailey.  

Plus, Longbottom pays homage to director Michael Bennett’s original staging with new lavish costumes, an innovative set design and new and revised songs. However, the newly assembled creative team includes the original composer Henry Krieger and the original scenic designer Robin Wagner.

Taking into account the popularity of the film version, this new production includes the song “Listen,” revamped by composer Henry Krieger as a duet between Deena and Effie in the second act.   

By the way, of the song, Henry Krieger said: “Robert Longbottom and Robin Wagner have put together such an amazing spectacle. To be able to write a new song for it – it’s as if I’d never took my hands off the keyboard. It came to me very naturally.”

Some perspective

To keep things authentic, Shepherd said when he studied for his character he paid no attention to the way the role was done before. He wanted to go with his own interpretation of the reading and as a result, by his own admonition, his depiction of Curtis Taylor, Jr. is quite different than the ones in both the movie and the original musical.

Never the less, it’ll be interesting to see if Curtis Taylor, Jr. is as mean this time around, or if Deena is as sweet and innocent and what about Effie, does she have the same sassy appeal as portrayed with the stellar cast in the film “Dreamgirls?”

Speaking of which, newcomer Moya Angela assumes the legendary role of Effie played by Jennifer Holliday in the original production and Jennifer Hudson in the 2006 film adaptation. Syesha Mercado is Deena and Adrienne Warren is Lorrell Robinson.

In other news:

Chaz Lamar Shepherd’s new album is available during the “Dreamgirls” musical tour at the venue and releases online and in selected stores this April. Shepherd’s soul/R&B music made Billboard charts three times in 2009. The artist was Grammy nominated for his gospel music in 2009, as well.

We’ll see you at the theatre!