<i>Dreamgirls</i> takes the high road home

by Jack Curry

Wake up, Broadway. Dreamgirls is back.

After Sunday's triumphant opening at the Ambassador Theater, the musical's road company will forever dispel New Yorkers' smug notions of touring productions' inferiority.

As with all tour versions, this one's a considerably stripped-down version of the original, about the rise of a Supremes-like singing group.

An earlier company ñ which played only L.A., San Francisco and Chicago ñ closed early because of cost: It required 18 trucks for sets and costumes instead of the current four. Rethinking the show, the original team headed by Tony-winning Michael Bennett went for the human over the high-tech. It's a lean, steamed entertainment machine.

"Scenery is the support system," says tour promoter Marvin Krauss. "But the show is the book, the lyrics and the direction. It doesn't cost anything to move that."

The ultimate proof: the show's touring success has brought it home. Occasionally a road show featuring a star will pull it off, like The King and I with Yul Brynner.

But here, Dreamgirls itself is the star. With less glitz, its poignancy, wit and style dazzle more brightly.

Now, the show's high point ñ "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," with which Jennifer Holliday originally brought down the house ñ is even more heartbreaking, as belted by Lillias White. It doesn't so much overwhelm us as touch us.

Welcome home, Dreamgirls. You've proved, the road isn't a one-way street.

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