I just read the best diva-related news I’ve come across in a long time. The original Dreamgirls — Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine and Jennifer Holliday — will reunite for the 17th Annual DIVAS Simply Singing! benefit on Oct. 6 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles.
Right now I’m checking airfares to Los Angeles.
And here they were in 1981.
The AOL Black Voices Blog has all of the details, but the basics are that Sheryl Lee Ralph — the original Deena (think Beyonce in the movie) in the Broadway production of Dreamgirls — founded the Diva Foundation in 1990 and established DIVAS Simply Singing! to honor the friends she had lost to AIDS/HIV. This year’s show will benefit the Women Alive Coalition and establish DIVAS as “the longest consecutive running musical AIDS benefit in Los Angeles.”
Missing Dreamgirls is one of the great Broadway regrets of my life. (Seeing Jekyll and Hyde with David Hasselhoff is one of the other great Broadway regrets of my life.) The role of Effie (think Jennifer Hudson in the movie) is one of the all-time great — and probably most difficult — roles in Broadway history. Can you even begin to imagine belting “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” eight times a week?
Here’s Jennifer Holliday’s legendary performance on the 1982 Tony Awards (where she won Best Actress in a Musical!)
The role of Effie has spawned two other near-legendary performances. In 2001, Lillias White (Jennifer Holliday’s understudy and a Tony Award winner in her own right) reprised the role of Effie in what must have been a truly amazing concert performance of Dreamgirls. (Audra McDonald and Heather Headley played Deena and Lorrell, respectively.)
(The Muppet in this picture, however, was not in Dreamgirls.)
And then, of course, there’s Jennifer Hudson’s Academy Award–winning turn as Effie in the 2006 movie.
All of this is to say, the reunion has the potential to be extraordinary. And Sheryl Lee Ralph promises that any real or imagined tensions among the original Dreams are now “lashes and mascara under the bridge.”
For the record, other scheduled performers include RuPaul, Natalie Cole, Deniece Williams and Jenifer Lewis (who gets a special shout-out because she played a lesbian in the short-lived drama The Courthouse in 1995).
Ticket information for the show is available here.
If you’ve ever seen a production of Dreamgirls or plan to see this reunion, please comment!