Dreamgirls is a Broadway musical that is based upon the stories of various R&B artists like The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and many others. It has two acts which are set in the 1960s and the 1970s.
The first act is set in the 1960s. It starts with an all-girl group called The Dreamettes joining an amateur singing contest in Harlem, New York. Composed by Effie White, Deena Jones, and Lorrell Robinson, the group sings a song composed by Effie’s brother. Even though they lost in the competition, a man named Curtis Taylor, Jr. notices their talent and offers himself to be their manager.
The Dreamettes’ first gig is as Jimmy Early’s back-up singer. Jimmy, wanting to have something new to offer to his audiences, records a song with The Dreamettes, the “Cadillac Car.” The song tops the charts until some group does a cover that becomes more popular than Jimmy’s version. Because of this, Jimmy Early and The Dreamettes release another song entitled “Steppin’ to the Bad Side” which eventually ends up as a major hit among the listeners. However, conflicts ensues between Jimmy’s manager and Curtis. Things also become worse when Effie starts dating Curtis and Lorrell becomes Jimmy’s mistress.
Curtis starts controlling the flow of Jimmy’s career and he gives the girls a new name, The Dreams. He also replaces Effie with Deena as lead singer of the group. When The Dreams start gaining popularity, the issues become graver between them and Curtis when Effie starts suspecting that Curtis and Deena may be having an affair.
Later on, the girls undergo another rebranding, calling themselves “Deena Jones and the Dreams.” Effie starts missing performances causing Curtis to get worried. Curtis then decides to replace Effie but she finds out about this before Curtis can tell her.
The second act takes place in the 1970s. During this time, Deena and the Dreams become more popular and Curtis marries Deena. Jimmy’s career has declined and Effie now takes care of his daughter in Chicago. Aside from raising her daughter alone, Effie is desperately trying to get back to the music scene while Deena is contemplating about being an actress. Curtis on the other hand, does not approve of Deena’s plans and he still constantly meddles with the songs of Effie’s brother.
Before a performance at the National Democratic fundraiser, Lorrell and Jimmy gets into an argument. During the performance, Jimmy makes the mistake of desperately trying to improvise and dropping his pants while singing. This causes Curtis to fire him and Lorrell to end their relationship.
Effie’s brother leaves Curtis’ company and reconciles with her sister. Effie then does her version of the song One Night Only which immediately tops the music charts. When Curtis learns about this, he does everything, including things that are illegal, just to make sure that Deena Jones and the Dream’s version of the song will beat Effie’s in the charts. Effie and her colleagues discover about what Curtis’s did and they resolve to take legal action against him. This event causes Effie and Deena to meet again and Deena learns that Curtis is the father of Effie’s daughter. Deena finally finds courage to leave Curtis and pursue her own dreams. The Dreams disband and during their last performance, Effie comes to sing one final song with them.
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