Celebrate the Original Broadway Production of Dreamgirls on Its 40th Anniversary | Playbill

Photo Features Celebrate the Original Broadway Production of Dreamgirls on Its 40th Anniversary
The musical opened at the Imperial Theatre December 20, 1981.
Jennifer Holliday and the cast of Dreamgirls Martha Swope/NYPL

The original Broadway production of Dreamgirls opened at the Imperial Theatre December 20, 1981. The musical played 10 previews and 1,521 performances before closing August 11, 1985, earning 13 Tony nominations and winning six.

Focusing on the fictional Motown group the Dreams— famously inspired by the Supremes—Dreamgirls explores the stardom, competition, and love lives surrounding three Black women climbing the ranks of the music industry in the ’60s and ’70s. The musical features a book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger.

Dreamgirls starred Jennifer Holliday as Effie White (who earned a Tony Award for her performances) Sheryl Lee Ralph as Deena, and Loretta Devine as Lorell, breakout roles for each.

Look Back at the Original Broadway Production of Dreamgirls

In addition to Holliday, Ralph, and Devine, Dreamgirls starred Obba Babatunde as C.C. White, Cleavant Derricks as James Thunder Early, and Ben Harney as Curtis Taylor, Jr. alongside Deborah Burrell, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Tony Franklin, David Thomé, Cheryl Alexander, Phylicia Rashad, Charles Bernard, Paul Binotto, Candy Darling, Ronald Dunham, Stephanie Eley, Sheila Ellis, Tenita Jordan, Linda Lloyd, Joe Lynn, Frank Mastrocola, Jamie Patterson, Wellington Perkins, Scott Plank, Brenda Pressley, Charles Randolph-Wright, Larry Stewart, and Weyman Thompson. Rounding out the company were Brenda Braxton and Milton Craig Nealy as swings.

Directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett with co-choreographed by Michael Peters, the production featured scenic design by Robin Wagner, costume design by Theoni V. Aldredge, lighting design by Tharon Musser, and sound design by Otts Munderloh with stage management by Jeff Hamlin, Zane Weiner, Frank di Filia. Visit the Playbill Vault for the complete cast and creative team.

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