What is Dreamgirls?

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  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2019
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Dreamgirls is a Broadway musical and a film. A fictional story, based loosely on the experiences of a number of rhythm and blues and soul acts, including the Supremes and the Shirelles, Dreamgirls follows a Chicago girls trio on their road to stardom. An amateur African-American group, the Dreamettes, enters a talent show in Detroit in 1962, where they meet an aspiring manager who arranges for them to sing back-up for a regional star. The lead singer of the group, considered too full-figured to have widespread appeal, is displaced, and the plot follows the fortunes of the original three Dreamettes over the next 13 years. The story contains allusions to actual groups and events, and the musical and film—though they do have some notable differences—are quite similar.

Dreamgirls had its roots in a project that was developed for Nell Carter. It began with the name One Night Only and then a working title Project #9, which was temporarily shelved when Carter’s career took a different direction. Interest from a new quarter led to further development and workshopping under the name Big Dreams, and with further workshopping and multiple changes of personnel, the project was renamed Dream Girls. With funding from David Geffen and the Shubert family, among others, as well as rewrites, the musical Dreamgirls opened at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway in December of 1981 and ran until 1985. The opening night cast included Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Loretta Devine as the trio members.


The film version of Dreamgirls also had a complicated path to its opening. David Geffen held the film rights and first attempted to work with lyricist and producer Howard Ashman to adapt the musical as a film for Whitney Houston. A production with director Joel Schumacher and starring Lauryn Hill and Kelly Price was both begun and stopped based on the success and failure of other films. Dreamworks’ version came about through the efforts of director and screenwriter Bill Condon. The film starred Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, and Anika Noni Rose as the members of the trio, Jamie Foxx as their manager, and also had Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover in the cast.

The musical Dreamgirls was nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won six. It also won five Drama Desk Awards and two Grammy Awards. The film Dreamgirls was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two. It also won many other awards, including three Golden Globes and a Grammy.


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Post 12

Somewhere in the back of my mind I seriously thought Dreamgirls was based on Diana Ross. Am I losing it, or is that a fact.

I’ve been active in musical theatre for quite a while, and I truly thought that the inspiration for this show was the life and times of that beautiful lady.

Does anybody know if I’m just imagining things, or is this actually true?

Post 11

I own Dreamgirls on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray. It is probably my all time favorite movie and I have watched it well over 20 times. I can't get enough. The movie fully lives up to its name. You can just escape into this wonderful story.

The music, the girls, the sets, the lights, the drama, I love it all. I was so excited when Dreamgirls won all of those Oscars and Grammys and Tonys. I can't think of anything more deserving of accolytes

Post 10

I feel bad for Lauryn Hill and Kelly Price! They were all set to act in the movie, and then they had to hear the disappointing news that the deal was off.

Imagine how they felt once the film was finally released and won all those awards! This could have enhanced their careers and their bank accounts so much.

I am especially upset that Lauryn Hill didn't get to star in the film. To me, she is the most talented female singer out there. She hasn't had much publicity in the five years following the movie's release, and it would have done wonders for her album sales.

Post 9

@OeKc05 – Unfortunately, even the contestants on those shows who were popular with the public feel the pressure to lose weight after the show is over. I don't know if their managers are responsible or if they merely get self-conscious, but I have noticed many of them losing significant amounts of weight once their careers begin.

Jennifer Hudson even lost weight after Dreamgirls. She is now the spokesperson for a weight loss company, and you can see her in several of their advertisements.

I'm sure that losing the weight has its health benefits. However, I hate that singers feel the need to impress people with their looks instead of just with their voices.

Post 8

I wonder what happened with the Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill versions of the film? They are both phenomenal singers, and I would have loved to have seen either of them in a musical movie.

I am quite happy with the cast the film did end up featuring, though. Jennifer Hudson has a voice that moves people, and she has the wonderful ability to stir up emotion in people just by singing. Beyoncé has a voice that is both beautifully delicate and surprisingly strong, and she is quite the actress, as well.

Post 7

I really don't see why an overweight singer would be kicked out of the group. Several overweight women have had phenomenal success in the music industry. As long as they have awesome voices and can sell albums, why would it matter?

Several popular singing competition shows that keep people in the running based on their popularity with the public feature overweight women singers. Many of these have made it all the way to the final portions of the shows, and this is because the public voted to keep the singers there.

I think that if the music industry would base their decisions on who to market on voice only, we would have much more high quality music to choose from today. There are so many talented singers out there, and there is a void for them to fill, because the public has made its opinion known.

Post 6

@stolaf23-- No, it sure doesn't. The Shirelles and Supremes which Dreamgirls is said to be based on didn't have great endings. Actually many of the girl groups at that time didn't and I can remember the Vandellas, the Temptations and the Miracles off the top of my head. They all ended up dismantling due to various reasons and some of the group members ended up in poverty unfortunately.

@ddljohn-- One of the reasons that Dreamgirls the movie did so well is because Bill Condon did one heck of a job adapting the play into a movie. I generally prefer plays over films, but this was a rare occasion where the entertainment level was truly close to what it would have been at the theater. You should definitely see the play if you get a chance. I think both the film and the play is worth the watch.

Post 5

I just found out that Dreamgirls is based on the story of the Supremes.

I actually didn't think of this until my mom mentioned it while watching the movie. She was a huge fan of the Supremes and grew up listening to their songs. So when we started watching Dreamgirls, my mom said "Oh this is about the Supremes."

I was not even born in those years, so it didn't occur to me that it was their story. But after learning a little bit about the Supremes, I see the commonalities. The Supremes were also a three African-American female group and they sang a lot of soul and pop. Florence Ballard who had started the group in the first place, ended up being pushed out of it because Diane Ross, one of the group members, was getting more attention and Florence Ballard had gained weight. So the movie and Supremes' story fit pretty well.

Post 4

I've seen Dreamgirls the movie in 2006 and I loved it. The cast, music, performances and choreography was just fantastic. It was a pure entertainer and I think it deserved even more awards at the Golden Globes than it won.

I also want to watch the musical play to see what the differences are between the two. I know that theater and cinema are two different experiences and both are exciting in different ways. But I think the film had a lot of changes from the original play, so I would like to see what the original version looked like.

A friend of mine lives in New York and she told me that Dreamgirls was playing at the

Apollo theater there a couple of years ago. I really hope that the play is put on again so that I can make a trip to New York and see it.

Does anyone else know where and when Dreamgirls might open? And if you've seen the play before, can you tell me how you liked it compared to the film?

Post 3

My favorite part about Dreamgirls is the soundtrack. The musical score has so many great songs in it; to me, the story isn't very good, but as a movie musical I think it worked well. I hope to see the stage version someday too.

Post 2

@stolaf23- I don't know if it is either, except that that the Dreamgirls film did act as a real happy ending for Jennifer Hudson, since it really got her noticed and she had a great career after that, and even got an Oscar.

I was also impressed by Beyonce in Dreamgirls, because I hadn't really expected her to be a very talented actress, and I think she did her part really well.

Post 1

I really enjoyed the film version of Dreamgirls. I think it's sad but also inspiring in the way it dealt with how the most glamorous girl in a group can overshadow the others. Unfortunately, I don't know if the real ending of those sorts of stories is ever as perfect as in the Dreamgirls movie.

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