What: A musical about a group, “The Dreams,” trying to break into the music scene of the '60s, and the men who accompany them on their endeavor. The music includes rock, Motown and disco.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Aug 2, 3, 10 and 11; and 2 p.m. Sunday and Aug. 5 and 12.
Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.
Cost: $26 adults, $18 age 23 and under; $22 Sunday senior matinees. Tickets are available at the Arts United Center noon-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday, as well as one hour before show time. Or buy tickets online at www.fwcivic.org.
Dwight Wilson couldn't be happier about the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre staging “Dreamgirls.”
The longtime theater board member and local community theater performer said he and Kontrell Tyler had dreamed of bringing “Dreamgirls” to Fort Wayne for more than a decade.
The fruits of their efforts will pay off Friday night when the show opens at the Arts United Center. Tyler plays James (Thunder) Early and Wilson plays Curtis Taylor Jr. in the show.
The play tells the story of “The Dreams,” three young female singers breaking into the changing music scene of the 1960s — and the men who surround them. The musical is filled with music of the era, from rock 'n' roll to Motown to disco.
People may be familiar with the movie “Dreamgirls,” which starred Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, but Wilson says “the focuses are totally different” between the movie and the play. He said the movie was more about the character Beyonce played (patterned on Diana Ross), whereas the play is more of an ensemble piece.
“There are probably seven character leads,” he said.
Of the 29 people in the cast, 24 are African-Americans. Wilson said the Civic “hadn't done enough plays that required a cast of that many African-Americans.” So there was concern about being able to fill all the roles, even though the Civic Theatre is committed to diversity.
Tyler had done a musical review of the play about five years ago at IPFW, but “this is the first time 'Dreamgirls' will be done in Fort Wayne in its entirety,” Wilson said.
He credits Tyler and Andrew Shade, who plays C.C. White in the play, with rounding up the musical talent. “I don't think Fort Wayne realized how much talent there is in the African-American community,” Wilson said.
Primarily through word-of-mouth and connections, the cast was built for “Dreamgirls.”
“Over half the cast has never done a play,” Wilson said. “Sometimes the discipline is hard to accept for these individuals.”
When told the cast would rehearse three to five hours every night, “some people are like, 'every night'?” Wilson said.
Some expressed fear they wouldn't be able to do it at first. “We're talking five, six-part musical harmonies,” Wilson said.
“There was an initial intimidation factor,” said Wilson, who added a lot of the cast members are in their teens and 20s. “I think that's worn off, and they've grown into themselves. We kind of nurture them and mentor them. That's a form of payment to see these young artists grow.”
He gives Director Dianne Shaw much credit for “her vision and her being adamant in making sure we the actors understand the era and the characters we're playing. That has really helped the people in the play understand what we're doing and bring the show to life.”
Wilson also credits the Civic Theatre for “having the courage to go ahead and green light this.”
He believes the staging of “Dreamgirls” will bode well for “theater in general and minority theater in particular.”
And for him personally?
“It's a dream come true for me,” he said. “I'm nearing kind of the twilight of my theatrical career because of the commitment and energy that it takes.” This will be his 25th year on stage.
“It means the opportunity for up-and-coming young people of any nationality,” he said.