Eric LaJuan Summers steals the show as James “Thunder” Early in NSMT’s production of “Dreamgirls.”
Attending the season opener at the North Shore Music Theatre brings back memories of stepping off the bus on the first day of summer camp. Like the joy of reconnecting with old friends and places, the NSMT’s round stage with its magic trapdoor center pit, its live orchestra and its signature disco-esque spinning light signal that, finally, summer is here.
And with its exuberant production of “Dreamgirls”,the winner of six Tony and two Grammy Awards, NSMT throws quite the summer party. There’s even dancin’ in the streets.
Inspired by the career of Diana Ross and The Supremes, the musical follows the onstage and backstage drama of the 1960s up-and-coming female trio, “The Dreams.” From their career-launching talent contest at New York City’s famed Apollo Theatre to their farewell concert over a decade later, there are the usual love triangles, artistic squabbles and managerial double-crossings.
There are also a soulful score, slick choreography and the performances of Bryonha Marie Parham as Effie and Eric LaJuan Summers as James “Thunder” Early that make “Dreamgirls” anything but the usual summer musical fare.
Parham and Summers are hands down the standouts in the strong 22-member cast. In Effie, Parham has a vehicle to unleash her powerful voice, and what a set of pipes she has. Her “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” deservedly brought down the house. Summers likewise packs a wallop as the showboat Early, playing him with a blend of James Brown athleticism, Stevie Wonder crooning and Little Richard flamboyance. Not since J. Cameron Barnett tore up the stage last summer as Sebastian the crab in “The Little Mermaid” has the NSMT hosted such an electrifying performer.
Like most NSMT productions, “Dreamgirls” is a little long at two-and-a-half hours (which includes a 20-minute intermission), but in this age of shrinking values and increasing costs, that seems a pretty silly thing to complain about.
“Dreamgirls” plays through June 14. For tickets and more information, visit nsmt.org or call 978-232-7200.