Actors' Fund plans benefit perf of musical
“Dreamgirls” is getting a dream cast.The Actors’ Fund of America will produce a benefit concert performance of the 1981 Michael Bennett musical “Dreamgirls” on Sept. 24 with the female leads to be played by Audra McDonald, Heather Headley and Lillias White. Among them, the three actresses represented no fewer than five Tony Awards. Headley won for “Aida,” White for “The Life” and McDonald for “Carousel,” “Master Class” and “Ragtime.” “Dreamgirls” opened at the Imperial Theatre on Dec. 21, 1981, featuring a score by composer Henry Krieger and lyricist Tom Eyen, who also wrote the book about a Supremes-style group that rose to national fame during the 1960s. It was to be the last Broadway tuner directed and choreographed by Bennett, who died of AIDS in 1987. Jennifer Holliday won a Tony for her turn as Effie, the Dreamgirl who was dropped from the group in order to make the singers more conventionally glamorous and acceptable to white audiences. White will essay the role in the benefit performance, with Headley playing Lorrell and McDonald playing the Diana Ross-like Deena. The roles of Deena and Lorrell were originally performed by Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine, respectively. Billy Porter (“Smokey Joe’s Cafe”) and Norm Lewis (“Side Show”) are the male leads in the concert performance, with a third yet to be cast. The “Dreamgirls” concert will be staged in a Shubert Theatre yet to be announced. The Shuberts were the original producers of the musical. Seth Rudetsky is set to direct the concert. The Actors’ Fund project in September recalls the legendary “Follies” concert, which was recorded and taped as a documentary at Avery Fisher Hall in 1985. “Regarding this ‘Dreamgirls,’ there’s a lot of talk of various ancillary projects,” said Catherine Cooke, director of special events at the Actors’ Fund.