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Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls

So you want to be a music star? Times have certainly changed since the 1960s, which is when “Dreamgirls” starts, but the hardships that come with fame certainly echo to the present day.

Those who saw the lavish 2006 movie version know the story: Hopeful talents Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson, and Effie White are performing as The Dreamettes when ambitious agent Curtis Taylor, Jr. discovers them. He lands them a job as backup singers for the soul and rock ‘n’ roll sensation James “Thunder” Early and begins to guide their quickly rising career. However, when the beautiful Deena emerges as the star of the group rather than the full-voiced Effie, the girls are brought to personal and professional crossroads.

The musical is full of show-stopping numbers, including “It’s All Over,” “Steppin’ to the Bad Side,” and the biggest of them all, Effie’s "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." We recently caught up with the actress playing Effie, Moya Angela, to learn more about the show and the pressures of a big-time role.

Jennifer Holliday originated the role of Effie on Broadway in 1981 and won a Tony for her performance. Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar for the role. Is there an award in your future?

I’m not so sure how this works. This touring production is geared toward Broadway run and an official revival, so hopefully it will lead to that!

For a role that’s been played many times before, how do you make it your own?

The good thing is I really only know how to be myself. What’s very important is keeping some of the same powerful elements and also bringing myself into the role.

What’s different in your performance?

I don’t purposefully do anything different, but I have my own flavor when I sing. I’m all about coloring songs, coloring in between the notes, meaning playing with the notes in different ways than the other Effie’s have done. I was classically trained, which contributes to the richness and quality of my voice. So the tone in my voice makes it different.

One of the most moving things about Effie as a character is her power, not just in her singing voice but also in personality.

Well consider her back-story: She has a younger brother who she pretty much takes care of. Deena and Lorrell are like her sisters, but yet she’s like the mom of the group. She’s a big talker with a big voice, and a strong woman. You see the rollercoaster she goes through with the situations she’s in, how she handles them, and even when she’s given all this mess and falls completely apart at the end of act one she picks herself up and remembers how strong she is, and becomes determined to achieve her destiny.

You were in “The Lion King”—which show has crazier costumes?

“Lion King” for sure, but “Dreamgirls” has crazier costume changes. Some are literally 15 seconds long, and we come out in a completely different outfit. Stuff happens backstage, and sometimes you walk out with the wrong wig on or something, but we have a great staff that rarely lets that happen.