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Clocktower Players present a dream show at Town Hall Theater

By Jackie Lupo
Cast members Jamaal Fields-Green, Maiysha Jones, Guy Fortt, Eva Cox, KC Morse, Sekou Luke, Rene O’Neal, and George Croom
 

IRVINGTON — Clocktower Players, the resident theater company of the Irvington Town Hall Theater, will kick off the season with a special performance of “Dreamgirls in Concert” on Sept. 10 As one of the hit tunes from the Broadway musical goes, it will be performed for “one night only.”

“It’s the 35th anniversary of the original Broadway production, and we’ve wanted to do it for a while, and this seems like a good time,” said Clocktower Artistic and Executive Director Cagle McDonald. She explained that the company decided to add a one-time event after the upcoming season's roster had been set.

“It’s a very expensive show to produce as a full show, but the music is so great, it works beautifully as a concert version,” said McDonald, a longtime Hastings resident. “There will be dialogue; people will be ‘on book,’” she explained, adding that the audience will hear most of the music from the show as well as the scenes leading into the music, “so you have a sense of the whole show, similar to the ‘Encores!’ productions at City Center,” referring to that Manhattan venue’s concert-format productions of Broadway favorites.

As of Aug. 25, the orchestra was sold out, and the balcony was pretty full, too. “People love 'Dreamgirls'... the music is just so great,” McDonald said. “There’s a dramatic story, but it’s fun as well as heartbreaking.”

The 1981 Tony-Award-winning musical by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, reprised on film in 2006, is loosely based on the Motown girl groups and soul singers of the '60s and '70s. It tells the story of a typical group, the “Dreamettes,” who win a talent contest and fall under the sway of a used-car dealer turned unscrupulous music promoter, Curtis Taylor Jr. Curtis hires the group as backup singers for another one of his clients, soul singer Jimmy “Thunder” Early, but the Dreamettes soon begin to be successful on their own, thanks to the powerful voice of lead singer Effie. Curtis has big plans for the girls, renaming them the “Dreams,” and coldheartedly demoting the overweight Effie from the lead singer position in favor of the slimmer, more “marketable” Deena. Effie quits the group without telling Curtis she is pregnant with his child, and she struggles in obscurity for many years. Meanwhile, the Dreams become an international sensation on a par with the real-life Supremes, but their fame does not always bring happiness.

For the Clocktower production, the company’s choreographer, Josue Jasmin, takes on the dual role of director and choreographer. “This is one of my favorite musicals,” Jasmin said. “’Dreamgirls’ gives you the best of the show-biz world: the glitz, the music, the voices, the touching story, the heartbreak, and of course, the dance. Who wouldn’t want the challenge of making those work together?”

Jasmin said that even though the event was a concert version, “This production focuses a lot on the storytelling. Most productions of this show rely on fantastic singing to get them through, ignoring what’s really important for the audience. You will be able to feel the anger, the heartache, the love, the anxiety, and most important, the bond of this fantastic group of artists — both as characters in the story as well as actors pouring their hearts out with this ‘one-night-only’ performance. Combine that with their superb singing and really polished aspects of production, and the impact is tremendous.”

The pivotal role of Effie is played by Rene O’Neal, who directs youth shows for Clocktower, is one of the company's administrators, and has appeared in many adult troupe productions, such as “Ragtime” and “Hair.” Effie, according to McDonald, is “the perfect role for her. Her voice is just magnificent.”

Eva Cox plays Deena, the character whose story has many parallels to the story of Diana Ross. “I have known [Eva] for many years; she’s done several other shows with us,” McDonald said. “Her voice is also just dynamite with this.”

Clocktower veteran Sekou Luke, who plays Curtis, usually gets cast as the romantic lead or some form of good guy. “It’s nice to play a character that’s not as upright,” he joked. “Curtis is definitely one smooth and charming manipulator. I hope to make the audience love hating me.”

Guy Fortt, last seen as “The Wiz” in Clocktower’s 2014 gala concert, takes on the larger-than-life role of Jimmy Early. “I have to live in the ‘Jimmy’ moment all the time,” he said. “Also, the vocal arrangements are very difficult. And this is my first time, ever, singing scripted dialogue. I have never done this before, not even in [the original Broadway show] ‘The Color Purple.’” 

The role of Lorrell, one of the Dreams, is played by KC Morse, a newcomer to Clocktower. “'Dreamgirls' is such a special show because, like its title implies, it's all about dreams. Every character has a dream they wish to chase and fulfill,” she said. “As they do, they all need to dig deep and find their inner strength, and lean on their family and friends to really make their dreams come true — while also using fierce and fabulously fun songs to tell their story.”

“Dreamgirls in Concert” will be performed next Saturday, Sept. 10, at 8 p.m. at Irvington Town Hall Theater, 85 Main St. (entrance on North Ferris Street). For more information, call the box office at 591-6602. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online at irvingtontheater.com.


Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


 

September 2, 2016

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