Dreamgirls is a 2006 American musical comedy/crime drama film based on the 1981 Broadway musical, directed by Bill Condon.
The story follows the history and evolution of American R&B music during the 1960s and 1970s through the eyes of a Detroit, Michigan girl group known as the Dreams and their manipulative record executive.
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
1962 to New Year's Eve, 1966
Backstage at an amateur talent show at the Detroit Theatre in 1962, Cadillac salesman Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx) meets a girl group known as "The Dreamettes": lead singer Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) and back-up singers Deena Jones (Beyonce) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) .
Curtis presents himself as the Dreamettes' new manager and arranges for the Dreamettes to become backup singers for local R&B star Jimmy "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy).
Aiming to achieve success for black singers with mainstream white audiences, Curtis starts his own record label, Rainbow Records, out of his Detroit car dealership, and appoints Effie's brother C.C. (Keith Robinson) as his head songwriter.
When their first single fails after a white pop group releases a cover version, Curtis, C.C. and their producer Wayne (Hinton Battle) turn to payola to make Jimmy and the Dreamettes pop stars. Offstage, Effie becomes infatuated with the slick-talking Curtis while the married Jimmy begins an affair with Lorrell.
Jimmy's manager Marty grows weary of Curtis' plans to make his client more pop-friendly and walks out. When Jimmy bombs in front of a mostly white Miami Beach audience, Curtis sends Jimmy out on the road alone, keeping the Dreamettes behind to headline in his place.
Feeling that Effie's large figure and distinctive voice will not attract white audiences, Curtis appoints the slimmer and higher-voiced Deena lead singer and renames the group "The Dreams." With the aid of new songs and a new more glamorous image, Curtis and C.C. transform the Dreams into a top selling mainstream pop act by 1965.
However, Effie begins acting out, particularly when Curtis' affections also turn towards Deena. Curtis eventually drops Effie (who has just learned she is pregnant with Curtis' child) from the group, hiring his secretary girlfriend, Jackie Morris (Dianna Agron) to take her place which Effie finds out before anyone can tell her. Despite Effie's defiance at being ousted, and her last-ditch appeal to Curtis, he, C.C. and the Dreams leave her behind and forge ahead to stardom.
1973 to 1975
Seven years later in 1973, Effie has become an impoverished welfare mother, living in inner-city Detroit with her daughter, Magic and struggling to return to music. One day, Marty appeals to Effie to let him help her rebuild her career and compels her to use her struggles as motivation in her music.
Meanwhile, Rainbow Records has moved to Los Angeles, where the Dreams (now "Deena Jones & the Dreams") have become superstars. With Rainbow the biggest black-run business in the country, Curtis is now attempting to move into film production with a film about Cleopatra starring an unwilling Deena, who is now his wife.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Early has descended into drug addiction, his career neglected due to Curtis' preoccupation with Deena. When Jimmy has a breakdown onstage at Rainbow's tenth anniversary TV special the following year, dropping his pants in front of the audience and live TV cameras, Curtis drops him from the label and Lorrell ends their long affair. Later, Jimmy is found dead in a hotel room from a heroin overdose.
Angered over Curtis' increasing control and remixing over his music for a new sound and his lack of sympathy upon learning of Jimmy's death in which Curtis calls it a "bad bad scene" after watching it on a breaking news bulletin, C.C. quits and returns to Detroit to find Effie, who has been rebuilding her career in music with Marty as her manager.
The two siblings reconcile, C.C. meets his niece Magic for the first time and he writes and produces Effie's comeback single, "One Night Only." Just as the record begins gaining radio play in Detroit and climbs the charts, Curtis becomes furious when he learns about C.C. helping Effie out in rebuilding her career.
Out of desperation and spite, he uses payola to force radio stations to play a disco cover of "One Night Only" by Deena Jones & the Dreams instead. His plan falls apart when Deena, angry over Curtis' control of her career, finds evidence of his payola schemes and contacts Effie and C.C., who arrive in Los Angeles with Marty and a lawyer.
Deena and Effie reconcile while Curtis (wanting to avoid being reported to the FBI for payola), agrees to give Effie's record national distribution. Inspired by Effie's victory, Deena leaves Curtis to make it on her own.
As a result, Deena Jones & the Dreams give a farewell performance at the Detroit Theater. At the conclusion of the concert, Deena invites Effie to join the group onstage and sing lead for the final performance of the group's signature song, "Dreamgirls."
As the concert ends, Curtis notices Magic in the front row, walks down the aisle, stands next to her without speaking and realizes that he is the girl's father.
- "I'm Lookin' for Something" – The Step Sisters
- "Takin' the Long Way Home" – Tiny Joe Dixon
- "Move" – The Dreamettes
- "Fake Your Way to the Top" – James "Thunder" Early & the Dreamettes
- "Cadillac Car" – James "Thunder" Early & the Dreamettes
- "Cadillac Car (Reprise)" – Dave & the Sweethearts
- "Steppin' to the Bad Side" – Curtis Taylor Jr., C.C. White, Wayne, James
- "Thunder" Early & the Dreamettes, and Chorus
- " Love You I Do" – Effie White
- "I Want You Baby" – Jimmy Early & the Dreamettes
- "Family" – C.C. White, Effie White, Curtis Taylor Jr., Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson
- "Dreamgirls" – The Dreams
- "Heavy" – The Dreams
- "It's All Over" – Effie White, Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson, Jackie Morris, C.C. White and Curtis Taylor Jr.
- "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" – Effie White
- "Love Love Me Baby" – Deena Jones & the Dreams
- "I'm Somebody" – Deena Jones & the Dreams
- "When I First Saw You" – Curtis Taylor Jr.
- "Patience" – Jimmy Early, Lorrell Robinson, C.C. White, and Chorus
- "I Am Changing" – Effie White
- "Perfect World" – The Campbell Connection
- "I Meant You No Harm/Jimmy's Rap" – Jimmy Early
- "Lorrell Loves Jimmy" – Lorrell Robinson
- "Family (Reprise)" – Deena Jones & the Dreams
- "Step on Over" – Deena Jones & the Dreams
- "I Miss You Old Friend" – Jazz Singer (Loretta Devine)
- "Effie, Sing My Song" – C.C. White and Effie White (deleted from theatrical version, present on DVD)
- "One Night Only" – Effie White
- "One Night Only (Disco Version)" – Deena Jones & the Dreams
- " Listen" – Deena Jones
- "Hard to Say Goodbye" – Deena Jones & the Dreams
- "Dreamgirls (Finale)" – The Dreams
- Jamie Foxx as Curtis Taylor, Jr; based upon Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., Curtis is a slick Cadillac dealer-turned-record executive who founds the Rainbow Records label and shows ruthless ambition in his quest to make his black artists household names with white audiences. At first romantically involved with Effie, Curtis takes a professional and personal interest in Deena after appointing her lead singer of the Dreams in Effie's place.
- Beyoncé Knowles as Deena Jones; based upon Motown star Diana Ross, Deena is a very shy young woman who becomes a star after Curtis makes her lead singer of the Dreams. This, as well as her romantic involvement and later marriage to Curtis, draw Effie's ire, though Deena realizes over time she is a puppet for her controlling husband. Knowles was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance.
- Eddie Murphy as Jimmy "Thunder" Early; inspired by R&B/soul singers such as James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and Marvin Gaye, is a raucous performer on the Rainbow label engaged in an adulterous affair with Dreams member Lorrell. Curtis attempts to repackage Early as a pop-friendly balladeer. Jimmy's stardom fades as the Dreams' stardom rises, and as a result - he falls into depression (which he copes with through drug abuse). Murphy won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film.
- Jennifer Hudson as Effie White; inspired by Supremes member Florence Ballard and soul singers Etta James and Aretha Franklin, the plus-sized Effie is a talented yet temperamental singer who suffers when Curtis, the man she loves, replaces her as lead singer of the Dreams and his love interest, and later drops her altogether. With the help of Jimmy's old manager Marty, Effie begins to resurrect her career a decade later, while raising her daughter Magic, the offspring of her union with Curtis. Hudson won the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, among other honors, for her portrayal of Effie. Hudson also became the first American Idol contestant to win both major awards.
- Danny Glover as Marty Madison, Jimmy's original manager before Curtis steps into the picture, Marty serves as both counsel and confidant to Jimmy, and later to Effie as well.
- Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell Maya Robinson; inspired by Supremes member Mary Wilson, is a good-natured background singer with the Dreams who falls deeply in love with the married Jimmy Early and becomes his mistress.
- Keith Robinson as C.C. White; inspired by Motown vice president, artist, and songwriter Smokey Robinson, Effie's soft-spoken younger brother C.C. (Clarence Conrad) serves as the main songwriter for first the Dreams and later the entire Rainbow roster.
- Sharon Leal as Michelle Morris; based upon Supremes member Cindy Birdsong, Curtis' secretary girlfriend who replaces Effie in the Dreams and begins dating C.C.
- Will Smith as Chris, a salesman at Curtis' Cadillac dealership who becomes Rainbow's first record producer and Curtis' henchman.
- Mariah I. Wilson as Magic, Effie's daughter.
Since the 1980s and 1990s, several different attempts have been made to produce a film adaptation of Dreamgirls, a Broadway musical loosely based upon the story of The Supremes and Motown Records, which won six Tony Awards in 1982.
David Geffen (the stage musical's co-financier) retained the film rights to Dreamgirls and turned down many offers to adapt the story for the screen. He cited a need to preserve the integrity of Dreamgirls' stage director Michael Bennett's work after his death in 1987
That same year, Geffen (who ran his Warner Bros.-associated Geffen Pictures film production company at the time) began talks with Broadway lyricist and producer Howard Ashman to adapt it as a star vehicle for Whitney Houston, who was to portray Deena.
The production ran into problems when Houston wanted to sing both Deena and Effie's songs (particularly "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going") and the film was eventually abandoned.
When Geffen co-founded DreamWorks in 1994 and dissolved Geffen Pictures, the rights to Dreamgirls remained with Warner Bros.
Warner planned to go ahead with the film with director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Tina Andrews in the late 1990s, following the success of Touchstone Pictures's Tina Turner biopic What's Love Got to Do with It.
Schumacher planned to have Lauryn Hill portray Deena and Kelly Price play Effie. After Warner's Frankie Lymon biopic Why Do Fools Fall in Love failed at the box office, the studio shut down development on "Dreamgirls."
DreamWorks' Dreamgirls adaptation came about after the film version of the Broadway musical Chicago was a success at both the box office and the Academy Awards. Screenwriter and director Bill Condon, who wrote Chicago 's screenplay, met producer Laurence Mark at a Hollywood holiday party in late 2002 where the two discussed a long held "dream project" of Condon's, adapting Dreamgirls for the screen.
The two had dinner with Geffen and successfully convinced him to allow Condon to write a screenplay for Dreamgirls.
Condon did not start work on the Dreamgirls script until after making the Alfred Kinsey biographical film Kinsey. After sending Geffen the first draft of his screenplay in January of 2005, Condon's adaptation of "Dreamgirls" was greenlit.
Stage to script changes
While much of the stage musical's story remains intact, a number of significant changes were made.
The Dreams' hometown—the setting for much of the action—was moved from Chicago to Detroit, the real-life hometown of The Supremes and Motown Records. The roles of many of the characters were related more closely to their real-life inspirations, following a suggestion by Geffen.
Warner Bros. had retained the film rights to Dreamgirls, and agreed to co-produce with DreamWorks. However, after casting was completed, the film was budgeted at $73 million and Warner backed out of the production. Geffen (taking the role of co-producer), brought Paramount Pictures in to co-finance and release Dreamgirls.
During the course of production, Paramount's parent company, Viacom, would purchase DreamWorks, aligning the two studios under one umbrella (and giving the senior studio US distribution rights on behalf of DreamWorks).
The completed film had a production budget of $75 million, making "Dreamgirls" the most expensive film with an all-black starring cast in cinema history.
Casting and rehearsal
Mark and Condon began pre-production with the intentions of casting Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy, both actors with record industry experience, as Curtis Taylor, Jr. and James "Thunder" Early, respectively.
When offered the part of Curtis, Foxx initially declined because DreamWorks could not meet his salary demands. Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Terrence Howard were among the other actors also approached to play Curtis.
Murphy, on the other hand, accepted the role of Jimmy Early after being convinced to do so by DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. As a result, Dreamgirls became Murphy's first film for Paramount since 1995; the actor at one time had an exclusive contract with that studio.
While Condon had intended to cast relatively unknown actresses as all three Dreams, R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles lobbied for the part of Deena Jones and was cast after a successful screen test.
Upon learning that Knowles and Murphy had signed on, Foxx rethought his original decision and accepted the Curtis role at DreamWorks' lower salary.
R&B star Usher was to have been cast as C.C. White, but contract negotiations failed: Usher was unable to dedicate half a year to the film project. André 3000 of OutKast was also offered the role, but declined.
After briefly considering R&B singer Omarion, singer/actor Keith Robinson was eventually cast in the role.
Anika Noni Rose, a Broadway veteran and a Tony Award winner, won the part of Lorrell Robinson after an extensive auditioning process. Rose, who was significantly shorter than most of her co-stars at five feet and two inches (157 cm), was required to wear (and dance in) four and five-inch (127 mm) heels for much of the picture, which she later stated caused her discomfort.
The most crucial casting decision involved the role of Effie White, the emotional center of the story.
The filmmakers insisted on casting a relative unknown in the role, paralleling the casting of then-21-year-old Jennifer Holliday in that role for the original Broadway production.
A total of 783 singing actresses auditioned for the role of Effie White, among them American Idol alumnae Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson, former Disney star Raven-Symoné, and Broadway stars Capathia Jenkins and Patina Miller.
Though Barrino emerged as an early frontrunner for the part, Hudson was eventually selected to play Effie, leading Barrino to telephone Hudson and jokingly complain that Hudson "stole [Barrino's] part."
Hudson was required to gain twenty pounds for the role which marked her debut film performance. In casting Hudson, Condon recalled that he initially was not confident he'd made the right decision, but instinctively cast Hudson after she'd auditioned several times because he "just didn't believe any of the others."
After Hudson was cast in November 2005, the Dreamgirls cast began extensive rehearsals with Condon and choreographers Fatima Robinson and Aakomon "AJ" Jones, veterans of the music video industry.
Meanwhile, the music production crew began work with the actors and studio musicians recording the songs for the film.
Although rehearsals ended just before Christmas 2005, Condon called Hudson back for a week of one-on-one rehearsals, to help her more fully become the "diva" character of Effie. Hudson was required to be rude and come in late both on set & off and she and Condon went over Effie's lines and scenes throughout the week.
Loretta Devine (who played Lorrell in the original Broadway production) has a cameo as a jazz singer who performs the song "I Miss You Old Friend."
Another Dreamgirls veteran present in the film is Hinton Battle, who was a summer replacement for James "Thunder" Early onstage and here portrays Curtis' aide-de-camp Wayne
Principal photography began January 6, 2006 with the filming of dance footage for the first half of "Steppin' to the Bad Side," footage later deleted from the film.
The film was primarily shot on soundstages at the Los Angeles Center Studios and on location in the Los Angeles area, with some second unit footage shot in Detroit, Miami, and New York City.
The award-winning Broadway lighting team of Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer were brought in to create theatrical lighting techniques for the film's musical numbers
Beyoncé Knowles elected to lose weight to give the mature Deena Jones of the 1970s a different look than the younger version of the character.
By sticking to a highly publicized diet of water, lemons, maple syrup and cayenne pepper (also known as the Master Cleanse), Knowles rapidly lost twenty pounds, which she gained back once production ended.
Principal photography was completed in the early-morning hours of April 8, 2006, after four days were spent shooting Jennifer Hudson's musical number "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" which had purposefully been saved until the end of the shoot.
Originally scheduled to be shot in one day, Condon was forced to ask for extra time and money to finish shooting the "And I Am Telling You" scene, as Hudson's voice would give out after four hours of shooting the musical number, and she was unable to plausibly lip-sync while hoarse.
The scene was felt by everyone involved to be pivotal to the film, as "And I Am Telling You" was Jennifer Holliday's show-stopping number in the original Broadway musical.
Dreamgirls musical supervisors Randy Spendlove and Matt Sullivan hired R&B production team The Underdogs (Harvey Mason, Jr. and Damon Thomas) to restructure and rearrange the Henry Krieger/Tom Eyen Dreamgirls score so that it better reflected its proper time period, yet also reflected modern R&B/pop sensibilities.
During post-production, composer Stephen Trask was contracted to provide additional score material for the film.
Four new songs were added for the film: "Love You I Do", "Patience", "Perfect World," and "Listen." All of the new songs feature music conducted by original Dreamgirls stage conductor Henry Krieger.
With Tom Eyen having died in 1991, various lyricists were brought in by Krieger to co-author the new songs.
"Love You I Do," with lyrics by Siedah Garrett, is performed in the film by Effie during a rehearsal at the Rainbow Records studio.
Willie Reale wrote the lyrics for "Patience," a song performed in the film by Jimmy, Lorrell, C.C., and a gospel choir, as the characters attempt to record a message song for Jimmy.
"Perfect World," also featuring lyrics by Garrett, is performed during the Rainbow 10th anniversary special sequence by Jackson 5 doppelgängers The Campbell Connection.
"Listen", with additional music by Scott Cutler and Beyoncé Knowles, and lyrics by Anne Preven, is presented as a defining moment for Deena's character late in the film.
After preview screenings during the summer of 2006, several minutes worth of musical footage were deleted from the film due to negative audience reactions to the amount of music.
Among this footage was one whole musical number, C.C. and Effie's sung reunion "Effie, Sing My Song", which was replaced with an alternative spoken version.
The "Dreamgirls: Music from the Motion Picture" soundtrack album was released on December 5 by Music World Entertainment/Columbia Records, in both a single-disc version containing highlights and a double-disc "Deluxe Version" containing all of the film's songs.
The single-disc version of the soundtrack peaked at number-one on the Billboard 200 during a slow sales week in early January 2007.
"Listen" was the first official single from the soundtrack, supported by a music video featuring Beyoncé. "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" was the Dreamgirls soundtrack's second single.
Even though a music video with all-original footage was once planned, the video eventually released for "And I Am Telling You" comprised the entire corresponding scene in the actual film.
Premieres, road show engagements, and general releases
"Dreamgirls" premiered on December 4, 2006 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City, where it received a standing ovation.
The film's Los Angeles premiere was held on December 11 at the Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hills.
Similar to the releases of older Hollywood musicals such as "The Sound of Music," "My Fair Lady" and "West Side Story," "Dreamgirls" debuted with three special ten-day roadshow engagements beginning on December 15, 2006 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City, the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, and the AMC Metreon 15 in San Francisco.
Tickets for the reserved seats were $25 each; the premium price included a forty-eight page full-color program and a limited-print lithograph This release made "Dreamgirls" the first American feature film to have a road show release since "Man of La Mancha" in 1972.
"Dreamgirls" earned a total of $851,664 from the roadshow engagements, playing to sold-out houses on the weekends.
The film's national release, at regular prices, began on December 25. Outside of the U.S., Dreamgirls opened in Australia on January 18, and in the United Kingdom on February 2. Releases in other countries began on various dates between January and early March.
"Dreamgirls" eventually grossed $103 million in the United States, and almost $155 million worldwide
DreamWorks Home Entertainment released Dreamgirls to home video on May 1, 2007 in DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray formats.
The DVD version was issued in two editions: a one-disc standard version and a two-disc "Showstopper Edition."
The two-disc version also included a feature-length production documentary, production featurettes, screen tests, animatics, and other previsualization materials and artwork.
Both DVD versions featured alternate and extended versions of the musical numbers from the film as extras, including the "Effie, Sing My Song" scene deleted during previews. An extended "director's cut" is currently planned for release in the future.
Both the Blu-ray and HD DVD versions were issued in two-disc formats. Dreamgirls was the first DreamWorks film to be issued in a high definition home entertainment format. The total Domestic Video Sales to date are $94,989,214.
"Dreamgirls" was critically praised, resulting in a 78% composite critical approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.
Rolling Stone's Peter Travers gave the film three and a half stars (out of four) and the number-two position on his "best of 2006" list, stating that "despite transitional bumps, Condon does Dreamgirls proud."
David Rooney of Variety reported that the film featured "tremendously exciting musical sequences" and that "after The Phantom of the Opera, Rent and The Producers botched the transfer from stage to screen, Dreamgirls gets it right."
On the December 10, 2006 episode of the television show Ebert & Roeper, Richard Roeper and guest critic Aisha Tyler (filling in for Roger Ebert, who was recovering from cancer-related surgery) gave the film "two thumbs up" with Roeper's reservations that it was "a little short on heart and soul" and "deeply conventional."
Roeper still enjoyed the film, noting that Jennifer Hudson's rendition of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" as the "show-stopping moment of any film of 2006" and very much enjoyed Murphy's performance as well, remarking that "people are going to love this film."
Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter was less enthusiastic, stating that while the film was "a damn good commercial movie, it is not the film that will revive the musical or win over the world."
Ed Gonzales of Slant magazine found the entire picture too glossy, and declared that "the film doesn't care to articulate the emotions that haunt its characters."
University of Sydney academic Timothy Laurie was critical of the film's social message, noting that "the worthy receive just deserts by working even harder for the industries that marginalise them."
Many reviews, regardless of their overall opinion of the film, cited Jennifer Hudson's and Eddie Murphy's performances as standouts, with Peter Travers proclaiming Murphy's performance of "Jimmy's Rap" as "his finest screen moment."
Television host Oprah Winfrey saw the film during a November 15 press screening, and telephoned Hudson on the Oprah episode airing the next day, praising her performance as "a religious experience" and "a transcendent performance."
A review for The Celebrity Cafe echoes that Hudson's voice "is like nothing we’ve heard in a long time, and her acting is a great match for that power-house sound."
Jennifer Holliday, who originated the role of Effie onstage, expressed her disappointment at not being involved in the film project in several TV, radio, and print interviews.
Holliday in particular objected to the fact that her 1982 recording of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" was used in an early Dreamgirls film teaser trailer created before production began.
Many of the other original Dreamgirls Broadway cast members (among them Obba Babatundé, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Cleavant Derricks) were interviewed for a "Jet" magazine article in which they discussed their varying opinions of both the Dreamgirls film's script and production.