The longer you know me, the more you’re going to hear about this delightful little theater here in North Hollywood, The Cupcake Theater. You might recognize that this was also where I saw an unforgettable production of my favorite musical, Spring Awakening. Since they moved to this location, I have seen nine of Cupcake’s twelve productions (and two of those I missed were produced for children so I’m not sure that really counts against me here). I’m a huge fan of this company not only for their world class talent but also for their mission to provide affordable tickets so everyone can have a chance to come and see the excellent work they do here. While nothing is ever going to replace Spring Awakening as my favorite show (both as a Cupcake production and on a general scale), Dreamgirls is a truly phenomenal show.
Producing a huge show like Dreamgirls, is a challenge even larger than Cupcake’s past endeavor of putting on Hairspray (a feat Cupcake made look so simple it garnered attention even from NBC’s Hairspray Live production crew for their incredible work) and once again they rose to the occasion, opening the door, I’m sure, for more small companies to tackle this legendary show. It doesn’t take a fancy set to make a production like this work. You need the right cast to anchor the show with voices that transcend the space, the right band (led this time around by Darrell Alston whom worked with the national tour of Dreamgirls) to capture that Motown sound, a great choreographer (helmed here by Tor Campbell who also directs) who understands the dance styles of the day, and a costume and makeup department to create those iconic looks and handle say…a hundred or so wigs for the cast.
No production of Dreamgirls would get very far without its titular girl group at the center. For my show, I saw Jania Foxworth as Effie, who perfectly captures her journey from diva to humbled starlet with such powerful vocal range; Foxworth’s “(And I Am Telling You) I’m Not Going” is every bit the showstopper you expect but Foxworth also shines during these more pained and revealing songs such as “Family” and “I Am Changing.” Shaunté Massard as Deena Jones also shines, emerging from her early place in Effie’s shadows to take her place as a diva who can go truly go toe-to-toe with Foxworth’s Effie. A real standout for me, however, was Courtney Kendall as Lorelle.
Lorelle is one of those characters that can get lost in the battle of the divas if not tackled by an actress of Kendall’s talent. I enjoyed her character, portrayed as this sweet bundle of joy who believes in her sisters in this group. It surprised me when we got to Lorelle’s big stand out number, “Ain’t No Party” that inside this bubbly young lady was a voice as large as Foxworth and Massard’s. Her dynamic with Jimmy, played by Chad Ra’Sun was one of my favorite relationships on stage. They’re both such large personalities the way they interact is one of the highlights of the show for me.
The whole company is truly fantastic but I’d be remiss not to mention the incredible people behind the scenes. As you can probably tell from the pictures above and below, Cupcake has found a truly incredible costume designer in La Tanya Louis and a brilliant Hair/Wig designer in Byron Batista.
With such great talent both on stage and off, Dreamgirls is not a production to miss while it’s running, now through September 30th! This is a great show with a heartfelt theme of sisterhood and its exploration of how fame affects people. Cupcake’s production value will make you believe in your local theaters and their ability to tackle even a large show like this one and deliver. Get your tickets now while they last either from the Cupcake Theater’s website or through Goldstar