The Broadway musical “Dreamgirls’ is one of the most beloved theater productions of its era, featuring a largely-black cast. The Tony Award-winning musical made its Broadway debut on December 20, 1981.
“Dreamgirls,” written by composer Henry Krieger, and playwright Tom Eyen, was loosely based on the lives and career of notable R&B acts such as The Supremes, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, The Shirelles, and others.
The original production starred Jennifer Holiday, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Ben Harney, Cleavant Derricks, and Obba Babatunde. The musical focused on The Dreamettes, a trio of R&B singers and friends hoping to make it big after winning the amateur night competition at The Apollo. The full-figured Effie White, played by Holiday, and her best friends Deena Jones, played by Lee Ralph, and Lorrell Robinson, played by Loretta Devine, all showcased their formidable vocal abilities.
According to accounts, Nell Carter was initially pegged to played Effie White but went on to take a role for a daytime soap opera instead. Holiday won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, with Lee Ralph also nominated in the same category.
The show’s success translated into a 1983 nationwide tour and eventually a worldwide production.
In 2006, “Dreamgirls” as adapted into a film with Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, and Danny Glover starring among others. An recorded version of the musical also gained a pair of Grammy Awards with Holiday winning Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.