A correction was made to this article on Nov. 17, 2006.
Release: Dec. 15
Oscar Alums: Bill Condon (screenplay, “Gods and Monsters”), Jamie Foxx (actor, “Ray”), John Myhre (art direction, “Memoirs of a Geisha,” set decoration, “Chicago”), Nancy Haigh (set decoration, “Bugsy”), Willie D. Burton (sound, “Bird”), Michael Minkler (sound, “Chicago,” “Black Hawk Down”)
When “Dreamgirls” opened on Broadway, critics noted how fluid and cinematic Michael Bennett’s staging was. Even so, no movie version was forthcoming for a full 25 years.
Now the roman a clef about the rise of Diana Ross and the Supremes comes to the bigscreen via Broadway as one of the holiday season’s most anticipated pics. Indeed, about 20 minutes of the pic screened at Cannes, and buzz was so favorable that Oscar whispers started there. So great was the anticipation that the pic’s publicity machine went quiet for a bit, worried “Dreamgirls” would be overhyped.
The man tasked with satisfying those expectations is writer-director Bill Condon, who won an Oscar for another behind-the-scenes look at a dark corner of showbiz, “Gods and Monsters,” then garnered a scripting nomination for another Broadway tuner adaptation, “Chicago.”
The Acad was less captivated by sex researcher biopic “Kinsey” in 2004, but seems to like Condon’s take on showbiz.
Beyonce Knowles stars as Deena Jones, the diva leader of mythical girl group the Dreams, with Jamie Foxx as the manager who discovers them and becomes the center of a love triangle.
The buzz, though, has been more about two supporting players: “American Idol” alum Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy.
Hudson limns the role of Effie, the overweight, gifted singer forced out, both personally and professionally, in favor of Deena. The same role was a breakout for Jennifer Holliday on Broadway.
Murphy plays James Thunder Early, a character inspired by James Brown. On Broadway, Cleavant Derricks nearly stole the show in the part; Murphy could do the same.
Henry Krieger’s music won’t be eligible for original score, but there will be three new songs.
No one knows how “Dreamgirls” will mesh with the hip-hop generation, but this movie has a better chance than “Chicago” did of delivering tracks that will register on the charts. If so, that could help its awards chances.
Pic is likely to be a strong contender in several below-the-line categories as well, including costume design, sound and possibly cinematography.
Hollywood’s resurgent interest in musicals has been driven by showbiz tuners, from “Moulin Rouge” and “Chicago” to musical biopics “Ray” and “Walk the Line.” Judging by history, the Acad certainly takes an interest this area.
The Supremes aren’t as culturally relevant as they were 25 years ago or as revered as Ray Charles and Johnny Cash were, but “Dreamgirls” still arrives with pedigree and star power to spare.