This week’s THROWBACK THURSDAY is taking a look at the 6 time Tony award winning musical Dreamgirls. Many of you may be very familiar with the film that came out in 2006 starring Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce, Eddie Murphy, and Anika Noni Rose, but how much do you know about the stage production? The musical, spanning the 60s and 70s, follows the highs and lows of a Chicago girl group called “The Dreams.” With music by Henry Kreiger and book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, the original production of Dreamgirls came to Broadway in 1981 at the Imperial Theater and went on to be nominated for 13 Tony awards that year!
1. The show had 3 different names before it became Dreamgirls
At the beginning of development, the musical started out as One Night Only. While Joseph Papp was workshopping the show, the name was Project #9 (thank goodness that didn’t last). When Michael Bennett came on as the director, it became Big Dreams. Finally, they settled on the name we all know that show as today.
2. Effie was originally killed off!
Apparently in an earlier draft, Effie was killed off at the end of Act I. Jennifer Holliday left the production workshop of that draft because she didn’t like that her character was killed off so early in the musical. Effie’s significance grew over the many drafts and workshops, and it was Holliday’s persistence that lead to the strong leading character we know today.
3. Inspired by the Supremes
Though the original producers denied profusely that Dreamgirls was based on Motown’s iconic female trio, many elements of the story parallel actual details in the history of the Supremes. The love affair between Deena Jones and Curtis Taylor Jr. is similar to the affair carried on between Diana Ross and Barry Gordy Jr. The lead singer for the Supremes and the Dreams switched once they were discovered. Several other similarities seem a little too obvious not to be considered inspiration.
4. Major Changes from Stage to Screen
The film adaptation changed several elements in the adaptation from the stage. Most notable is the addition of 4 new songs and the cutting of several songs present in the stage version – one of those being “Ain’t No Party.” The Chicago setting was exchange for Detroit in the film as well.
5. Whitney Houston was supposed to play Deena
Warner Bros. bought the film rights to the show in 1980, and Whitney Houston was considered for the part. Lauren Hill was also an option later on, but it took 26 years to finally create the film. By that time, Whitney was way to old for the part. Could you imagine Whitney as Deena!? Well, Beyonce scored the role in 2006, so I guess we’ll never know what could have been.
Watch Jennifer Holliday and the original cast perform “And I Am Telling You” at the 1982 Tony Awards:
Now compare that to the Jennifer Hudson version from the film adaptation:
Have you seen the stage version of Dreamgirls? Dreamgirls hasn’t been on Broadway since the 80s. Do you think it deserves a revival? What did you think of the film adaptation? Scroll down to share your thoughts in the comments below!