Tag Archives: London

Review: Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre

Dreamgirls has long been one of the most popular musicals of all time. It first began on Broadway back in 1981, which was followed by a number of national and international tours as well as residences, revivals and one-off concerts. Its most prominent revival was the award-winning 2006 film adaptation starring Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson as well as a whole host of other A-list stars – which has since gained a huge gay following. Riding off that box office success was the 2009 revival in the US and now its finally made its way to the West End.

In November 2016, the West End production opened to rave reviews. Starring Glee’s Amber Riley as Effie White, the show has consistently sold out and recently won 2 Olivier Awards – one for Amber. As a huge fan of the musical – particularly the film – Gay Homestays went along on Saturday 29th April to “check it over and check it out” at the Savoy Theatre and in short, we absolutely loved it!

Dreamgirls

In the first scene we are almost immediately introduced to “The Dreamettes” and although we are sure everyone was expecting Amber Riley to make her entrance as Effie, it was in fact her alternate Marisha Wallace who stepped out instead. Of course, for most this may have been a slight disappointment but nevertheless she very quickly proved why she was chosen as Effie as well – both her acting and singing chops were on point.

Most people who have seen the musical or film will already know the story and its timeline from start to finish, but being aware of what happens next or even memorising the script did not deter anyone from watching with intent and awe as the cast took back on a journey through this iconic musical as it retold the tale of The Dreams. Throughout the production, the urge to get up and sing is almost unbearable at times – you know the lyrics to every song and have been practicing them all week in preparation – but at the same time you marvel at them as they tackle every song with charisma and ease, injecting emotion and soul with every word and note.

Adam J. Bernard, who plays Jimmy Early, is full of energy and really fully embodies his character – and it seems like he studied Eddie Murphy’s interpretation very well, as his voice was almost like a clone. Some may have found this redundant, because of course you want every actor to have their own interpretation of a character, while others may have been gobsmacked that he sounded exactly like Eddie. Either way, it did not deter him from showing us why he won the Olivier award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.

Marisha passed every test and was almost too good to be true as Effie White – a role that has some very big shoes to fill. She nailed the legendary “And I Am Telling You…”, giving a rendition that dare we say, is actually better than her predecessors – her voice is warmer and less gritty than Jennifer Holliday, less piercing than Jennifer Hudson’s and richer than Amber Riley’s. Her incredible Dreams co-stars as Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson also played their parts well.

Marisha Wallace: Amber Riley's understudy and Effie White alternate.

Marisha Wallace: Amber Riley’s understudy and Effie White alternate.

In a brilliant scene between Effie and Deena, both actresses break out into an unexpected duet of “Listen”, which was originally written specifically for the film version and performed by Beyoncé. The song was reworked in 2009 for the stage revival as a rekindling of the pair’s friendship as Effie encourages Deena to be strong, leave Curtis and go her own way, and was a very pleasant surprise to people here and the two ladies gave it their all as they emotionally belted it out. Beyoncé would surely be both proud and shook by the performance.

One song however, that we do wish had also made its way onto the stage is “Love You I Do”, the soulful crooner that Effie White sings to Curtis. Jennifer Hudson originated the performance in the film and it has since become a fan favourite, but was sadly missed off this time.

In all, all the experience of watching Dreamgirls on stage is a joy. The entire cast were magnificent and the music leaves you wanting to re-listen to all the songs again even though you spent ages listening to them beforehand because you couldn’t sing along during it and the whole soundtrack really is that timeless.

The Savoy Theatre connects to the luxury Savoy Hotel in the Strand in London’s West End. It neighbours a number of other theatres with shows on such as Kinky Boots at the Adelphi (The Bodyguard was here previously, as we reviewed) and Stepping Out the Vaudeville. The Lyceum Theatre where The Lion King has a long-term residency and the Novello Theatre where Mamma Mia is, are not far away at all. The Strand is close to Westminster, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Soho, so is both a dream destination for tourists and LGBT people visiting London alike.

If you’re thinking of going to London and watching Dreamgirls too, then why not check out if any of our hundreds of fabulous host have got availability for you on your desired dates? You can book tickets to see Dreamgirls on their website.

Overall rating: 5/5
Story: 5/5
Music: 5/5
Vocals: 5/5
Acting: 5/5
Choreography: 5/5
Production: 5/5

Have you seen Dreamgirls in the West End or any of the other previous productions? What are your thoughts on the show? Let us know in the comments section below and on social media!

Review: The Bodyguard, the musical

In 1992, Rachael Marron was brought to life as one of the most iconic divas on the silver screen in the 90s by, funnily enough, one of the world’s most iconic divas of all time – Whitney Houston. “The Bodyguard” was a huge commercial success, grossing over US$400 million worldwide and its soundtrack became the biggest-selling of all time, with over 45 million copies sold. Then, since 2012, not long after the untimely death of Whitney, a musical based on the film (that had been in production for several years already) directed by Thea Sharrock (the 2007 adaptation of “Equus” starring Daniel Radcliffe) and produced by David Ian (“Cats” and “The Sound of Music” among countless others) and Michael Harrison, was launched.

Tony award-winning actress and singer Heather Headley originally starred in the lead role and the musical was a critical and box office success, which continued after British soul singer Beverley Knight took over as Miss Marron and Tristan Gemmill replaced Lloyd Owen as Frank Farmer in September 2013. But how did Beverley fair in her first major acting role and her West End début and how does the musical compare to the film? We recently went along to see the show in London’s Adelphi Theatre on The Strand to see for ourselves and were pleasantly surprised that are high expectations were met.

beverley_knight

The storyline is very similar to the original film, with a few minor changes – the predominant ones being a small shift in the roles Rachel Marron’s sister, Nikki (experienced theatre actress Carole Stennett) and her stalker/assassin plays (the rather ruggedly handsome Michael Rouse). In addition to songs from the film’s original soundtrack, a number of other well-known Whitney Houston songs are included in the production and are cleverly weaved into the narrative in one way or another, like “Saving All My Love for You”, “All The Man I Need” and “One Moment in Time”. The musical also manages to give this romantic thriller a comedic and light-hearted edge that wasn’t in the film, which was perhaps aided by cheeky and more adult-based humour and one-liners and the introduction of more fun and uptempo Whitney songs such as “I’m Your Baby Tonight”, “How Will I Know” and the show’s closer “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”.

While the whole cast, bar Beverley, consists of seasoned screen and stage actors, singers and dancers and none of them, including Beverley are bad actors at all, we were a little unsettled by some of their overly fake American accents, though this thankfully did not take anything away from their overall performances. Beverley, who has never really acted before, did surprisingly well in fulfilling the role of Rachel Marron and taking over from Heather; we already know she can sing, but her acting was pretty impressive too, particularly as we see her stepping out of her usual humble and down-to-earth persona and become a world-class diva (in fact, very similar to Whitney, whose acting début was in the film). And sing she does. Known for her combined rich and beautiful tone, extensive range, vocal power, agility and control, technical skill, intricate musical and lyrical interpretations, and the soul and emotion she put into her songs, Whitney will forever be hailed as one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time. But Beverley is most certainly a vocal force to be reckoned with herself, possessing similar traits Whitney had and showcasing them brilliantly throughout the show. Not only does she retain the integrity, meaning and emotions of the original recordings but she also puts her own little twist to a few of them as well, some of which are given a slight re-arrangement to suit a musical setting and a theatrical performance – and she does so without a missing a note, a riff, run, trill or a beat. Carole Stennett also proves she’s a fine singer as she steps into the spotlight on a few occasions to sing solos and duet with Beverley, the latter of which showed great vocal precision and beautiful harmonies from the pair of them.

Though we felt (in a similar way to the film) that the story did lack a bit of depth and detail and there was little character improvement (except for Nikki Marron), it was definitely compensated by its slick direction and production, a great all-around cast and ensemble and of course its musical numbers that at times made it feel more like we were at a concert than a stage show. It was however, a shame that so many other great Whitney songs that could have been included were not and that there is no cast recording available to buy, though despite this we were left with a rush of tingles up our a spines and an energy that the cast gave us as they sang and danced their way through some of the biggest and catchiest pop songs of the past 30 years. And we’re sure Whitney Houston would have enjoyed it too if she was still alive to see it today.

“The Bodyguard” is currently taking bookings until 30th August and Beverley Knight will finish her run on the show on 31st May, with former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke taking over on 2nd June. The Adelphi Theatre is located on The Strand in the Westminster area of London near Covent Garden and is around a mile from Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. The area is not far at all from a number of London’s top gay bars and clubs, so is perfect for those wanting a night out in the city after watching the show. Check out our guide to gay London and see a full list of London’s gay scene, as well as view our 300 properties there right here.

Overall rating: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Music: 5/5
Vocals: 5/5
Acting: 3/5
Choreography: 4/5
Production: 4/5

Our Top Summer Destinations

I think we’re all starting to look forward to our summer holiday now, if we’re lucky enough to be going on one. Whether you’re off for a couple of days or two weeks in the sun, there are some destinations for everyone.

1. Sitges

Sitges is a Spanish seaside town not far from Barcelona. It has 17 beaches, and from 5th to 9th July is Sitges Gay Pride – only the second they have ever held, but it’s guaranteed to be a blast.

2. Milan

You don’t have to be a football fanatic to visit the second largest city in Italy. If you go on holiday to find art, culture and architecture, this is the place for you. And if you’re a football fan, all the better!

3. London

With the Olympics set this year, we’re pitching London as one of our top summer destinations for 2012. As if there isn’t enough to do in London already,  this year will be choc-a-bloc with extra things to see and do. One of those is at the Tate Modern, where Damien Hirst will be showing until the summer.

If you’d like to tell us about any of your favourite destinations, we’d love to hear about them!