New 'Dreamgirls' makes Chicago debut

January 22, 2010 10:21:09 AM PST
Dreamgirls, the movie, launched the career of Jennifer Hudson. Now another former "Idol" runner up, hopes the Broadway musical will also work magic for her. Syesha Mercado plays Deena Jones in Dreamgirls, now playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago. Syesha joins newcomer Moya Angela, who assumes the legendary role of Effie played by Jennifer Holliday in the original production and Jennifer Hudson in the 2006 film adaptation. The Dreamgirls trio is completed by Adrienne Warren as Lorrell, who appeared in the 25th anniversary production of Dreamgirls. Produced by John Breglio, the all-new Dreamgirls ( premiered at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater in New York City on November 22, 2009 before embarking on its national tour. Full of onstage joy and backstage drama, Dreamgirls tells the story of an up-and-coming 1960s singing girl group, and the triumphs and tribulations that come with fame and fortune. Hopeful talents Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson and Effie White are performing as The Dreamettes when ambitious agent Curtis Taylor, Jr. discovers them. He lands them a job as backup singers for the soul and rock 'n' roll sensation James "Thunder" Early and begins to guide their quickly rising career. However, when the beautiful Deena emerges as the star of the group rather than the full-voiced Effie, the girls are brought to personal and professional crossroads.

With its powerful score and thought-provoking story, Dreamgirls has touched audiences from 1980s Broadway to 21st century Hollywood. The original Broadway production of Dreamgirls opened December 20, 1981, at the Imperial Theatre and won six Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards in 1982. It closed on Broadway August 11, 1985, after 1,521 performances. The original Broadway production was directed by Michael Bennett and choreographed by Bennett and Michael Peters. Dreamgirls was adapted into a motion picture by DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures, and opened in December 2006. The film won two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, and two Screen Actor's Guild Awards in 2007 in addition to a Grammy Award for Best Song written for a Motion Picture ("Love You I Do"). The most popular song from the film, "Listen," has been incorporated into the new stage version of Dreamgirls as a stirring duet for Deena and Effie.

The current Chicago production includes 26 cast members, who use 580 outfits and 186 wigs during the show. The cast features Margaret Hoffman as Michelle Morris with Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Curtis Taylor, Jr., Chester Gregory is James "Thunder" Early, Trevon Davis as C.C. White, Milton Craig Nealy as Marty Madison. Also appearing are Tallia Brinson, Felicia Boswell, Ronald Duncan, Patrice Covington, Talitha Farrow, Brittney Griffin, James Harkness, Robert Hartwell, Eric Jackson, Chauncey Jenkins, Jared Joseph, Nikki Kimbrough, Brittany Lewis, Douglas Lyons, Kimberly Marable, Jarran Muse, Amaker Smith and Marc Spaulding.

Dreamgirls is directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom with co-choreography by Shane Sparks, scenic design by Robin Wagner, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting design by Ken Billington, sound deign by Acme Sound Partners, and media design by Howard Werner for Lightswitch. Dreamgirls features music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen with additional material by Willy Reale. Dreamgirls is produced by John Breglio for Vienna Waits Productions.

Dreamgirls runs through January 31 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St. in Chicago. For show times and tickets, visit the Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St. and 18 W. Monroe St.); call the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000 or visit

For more information, or

Through January 31
Cadillac Palace Theatre
151 W. Randolph
(800) 775-2000


Moya Angela (Effie White) joins the cast from The Lion King's Gazelle and Cheetah tours (Disney). Her roles included Rafiki and Shenzi. She is a native of Indianapolis, where she won two Encore Awards in her roles as Sara in Ragtime and Adapearle in The Wiz. Moya made her NYC debut with the company of Dreamgirls.

Syesha Mercado (Deena Jones) As a recording artist, Syesha released a single with two-time Grammy nominated jazz legend Boney James and has begun preparations for her first record, collaborating with a host of prominent writers and producers, including Grammy-winner Diane Warren, Scott Cutler, Anne Preven, Steve Diamond, Chris Rojas, and many more. She came to national attention as the second runner-up in the seventh season of Fox's "American Idol." She also participated in the subsequent "American Idol" LIVE Tour 2008, performing 53 concerts in 49 cities both in the United States and Canada. Syesha attended the Manatee School for the Arts, and was a theater major at Florida International University in Miami.

Adrienne Warren (Lorrell Robinson) is a recent graduate of Marymount Manhattan College. New York Theatre: The Wiz (Dorothy understudy for Encores! Summer Stars). Regional: Little Shop of Horrors, Cats, Big River, and the 25th anniversary of Dreamgirls starring Jennifer Holliday. Training: Ann Reinking's Broadway Theatre Project. Trans Siberian Orchestra 2008-2009 Winter Tour (Featured Vocalist).

Chaz Lamar Shepherd (Curtis Taylor, Jr.). Philadelphia's Chaz Shepherd has co-starred in many TV shows (7th Heaven, The Parkers, The Game...) and as Harpo on Broadway's The Color Purple. After being on the Billboard charts 3 times in 2009, Chaz's soul/RandB album will be released during the Dreamgirls tour. Chaz's gospel work was Grammy nominated in 2009.

Chester Gregory (James "Thunder" Early) an award-winning actor/performer/singer/songwriter, is ecstatic about being "Jimmy" in Dreamgirls and returning to the World Famous Apollo Theater where he made his NY debut as "Jackie Wilson" in The Jackie Wilson Story (Jeff, AUDELCO, BTAA and Black Excellence Awards). Broadway: Hairspray (Seaweed), Cry-Baby (Dupree) and Tarzan (Terk). Other credits include Hairspray (Movie) and performing for Michael Jackson. Chester has a BFA from Columbia Chicago. His music is available at

Trevon Davis (C.C. White) is thrilled to be a part of this production of Dreamgirls. A talented vocalist and songwriter, Trevon continues to make a name for himself with his casting as C.C. He was one of the seven finalists on BET's Sunday Best, hosted by Kirk Franklin, and he also appeared in MTV's hit series Making the Band, produced by Sean "Diddy" Combs.

Margaret Hoffman (Michelle Morris) recently graduated from Sam Houston State University, obtaining a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. While attending school, Margaret has performed in several theatrical and entertainment events at the premiere theatres of Houston, TX, such as The Ensemble Theatre and Theatre Under The Stars.

Milton Craig Nealy (Marty Madison) is happy to be a part of this new production of Dreamgirls, having been in the original Broadway and 1987 revival productions. He also created the roles of Agwe in Once on This Island and Four-Eyed Moe in Five Guys Named Moe on Broadway. Other Broadway credits include: Caroline, or Change, John in Miss Saigon (as well as the London and Australian productions), Mail and the revival of Ain't Misbehavin'. National tours: The Full Monty (also in Australia), Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar (20th anniversary tour) and Sing, Mahalia, Sing, starring Jennifer Holliday. Milton won the Best of Westword Award for his performance as Jacob in La Cage Aux Folles. Films include "The Blues Brothers