"Dreamgirls" pulls out all the stops in its highly stylized vision of such a girl group from rags to riches to rock royalty and back again when nothing but heartaches came a knockin' on their overcrowded careers; when all that was heard was not a symphony, but rather, cacophony.
On the way to celebrating its 30-year anniversary, the Henry Krieger/Tom Eyen master musical is eyeing a week of performances, concluding on June 27, at the Academy of Music, where the show — triumphantly adapted into an Oscar-winning movie in 2006 — has been reinvented to reward those who crave continued tales of supreme sacrifice.
Dream job — that's what it has been for Krieger, the creative composer who's had his own song of success over the years, tapping out honors for his "The Tap Dance Kid" and Tony Award/Oscar nominations for "Dreamgirls," as well as the underappreciated "Side Show."
"Dreamgirls" has been the main event for his decades-long career, and if anybody tells you they're not going to see this production, well, it may very well make its fans break out into song.
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," the show's show-stopper, jolted careers into being for Jennifer Holliday and Jennifer Hudson — the women who sang the gospel/geshrei of a song in the original Broadway and Hollywood productions, respectively — and has gotten Krieger gold rings, golden royalties.
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" … Not bad for a tune originally composed about a Bar Mitzvah boy refusing to go to Hebrew school — not. "Oh my God … no, that certainly wouldn't be the case with my sister and me. We enjoyed going to Hebrew school," says New Yorker Krieger, who somehow got the Motown Sound right without actually writing a Motown Sound bite.
Bitten by Motown … Jews and jive — perfect together?
"Certainly, there were times in our history when blacks and Jews were perfect together," says Krieger of the holy alliance of two downtrodden peoples looking to pull themselves up through social reform, with Jews taking an active role in the furthering of civil rights during the '60s.
In a way, it was also a rite of passage for many white Jewish male teens of the '60s to make mo' of their own styles out of the Motown Sound. The temptation was there — and the Four Tops.
Could anyone top "Dreamgirls" for its dynamics and audacity in conveying this sound's spunk and spirit? In a way, it has become the energizer musical. And the show has outsurvived two-thirds of its creative team, with the Motown musical's Krieger the sole man still standing after the deaths of Eyen and choreographer Michael Bennett.
But then, when Krieger enters the ring, he knows how to punch up the box office. He has had other major successes, such as writing the music for TV's "The Wonderful World of Disney" version of "Sleeping Beauty," while his off-Broadway "Romantic Poetry" was a sleeper hit.
Yet there was no rhyme or reason why Krieger's acclaimed "Side Show" didn't make it with audiences in 1997. The story of real-life Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, whose circus act went beyond the big top to the big time, was a split decision: critical raves, public ho-hums.
Down and out?
In a way, Krieger is a musical Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, brooking that inexplicable rejection to keep going, buoyed by otherwise merited optimism. And that may explain his next venture: "Radio Girl," based on Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, which is scheduled next month for Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House.
It pays to be an optimist — whether you're Effie of "Dreamgirls" or Krieger of composing acclaim. After all, there's still talk of Krieger, the composer of "The Tap Dance Kid," having a leg up on writing the theatrical musical version of the film "The Flamingo Kid."
For one so involved in "Kids" creations, is it any wonder that Krieger was also responsible for the "Santa's Gonna Rock and Roll" number in the Radio City Music Hall Spectacular?
Just how did a Jewish kid from Westchester County get to slay audiences year after year with his bagful of musical presence? What inspired him?
Well, ho-ho-ho, responds the 65-year-old with a simple answer: "The money."