Originating as a hugely successful Broadway musical, Dreamgirls took over twenty years to make the journey from stage to screen. At one point, Whitney Houston was mooted for the film – but she wanted to play the glamorous Deena Jones role and nab Effie White’s show stopping And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.
By the time it was retooled for Beyoncé, a compromise was made by giving Deena her own 11 o’clock number, the Oscar-nominated Listen. It’s a great performance, but it sums up a major problem with the screen adaptation of Dreamgirls – it feels muddled and lacking in focus.
Throughout the movie, we’re told that Deena is a relatively weak singer with a pretty face, while Effie lacks star quality, but has an incredible voice. By giving Beyonce her own three minutes of vocal showboating, the disparity between the two characters is undermined. Clearly, Beyoncé had no intention of being upstaged, but it’s a decision that hurts the movie.
In any event, art imitated life once again regardless, and it was her co-star Jennifer Hudson who walked away with all the accolades – including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Eddie Murphy was also nominated for his flamboyant turn as drug-addled RnB star Jimmy Early, and his loss to Alan Arkin remains one of the more controversial Oscar moments of recent years.
On this week’s podcast, we break down our full reaction to the film, including the best and worst of the soundtrack, the sanitised portrayal of the Detroit Riots and the subtle, entirely coincidental parallels between the movie and the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes.
Along the way we also brainstorm some drinking games, check in with our listeners for their thoughts on the film and pitch some sequel ideas to continue the Dreamgirls saga. Warning – you may also hear some very, very enthusiastic singing.
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Next week, we go from Dreamgirls to a very different kind of Oscar-winning diva showcase. Until then, happy listening and remember – every time Jamie Foxx starts singing, you’re probably good to zone out…