The great Broadway musicals tend to express emotions that are too big for any kind of naturalistic setting. Whether it’s the cockeyed, blue-skies optimism of Oklahoma!, the wild intensity of the young lovers yearning in West Side Story, or the overbearing Mama Rose’s combustible ambition in Gypsy, the great shows deliver feelings all out of proportion to the mundane concerns of the offstage world. There’s no show of which this is more true than Dreamgirls, which packs the conventional Broadway firecracker with racial and rhythm-and-blues dynamite. When the current American touring company of Dreamgirls hits the Granada Theatre Tuesday-Wednesday, January 29-30, it will be sure to shake the hall to its foundation, not just with music, but also with truly cosmic levels of melodrama.
One of the greatest things about both Broadway and about the subject of Dreamgirls, which is the African-American experience of popular music, is how well they translate to other cultures. All over the world, people do the locomotion, dance in the streets, and plead with their lovers not to keep them hangin’ on, and they do so because the wonderful songs of Motown told them to. Last week, I spoke with Aubrey Poo, the popular young actor who plays Curtis Jackson (the Jamie Foxx role for all you hopeless cinephiles out there) about how he came to America to play a role that he first encountered in his home country of South Africa. Below, the charming Poo offers three great reasons that everyone should get out and share the love at one of these upcoming performances. For tickets and info, call (805) 899-2222 or visit granadasb.org.
1) The Universality: “The history of black artists as they overcome the commercial music industry system is a universal one,” he told me. “There are many talented girls in South Africa who went through some version of the same thing.”
2) The Excitement: “I love the role of Curtis because it never becomes boring,” said Poo. “He’s in almost every scene, yet the show is not about him; it’s about the girls, which is something I always remember.”
3) The Singing: “The talent in this cast is mind-blowing,” the actor told me. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to stay in character because I’m such a fan of them all vocally. The show gives me goose bumps.”