The ending lines of Effie’s memorable power ballad in Dreamgirls are ‘you’re gonna love me.’ And love them I did. The ‘Salute to the Divas’ drag revue put on a show-stopping version of Dreamgirls for their December 2013 production at The Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. Though it was minimalist in set, the girls and guys of this cast put their heart and soul into the production.
A drag version of Dreamgirls could lend itself to an overall theme of camp and silliness that would turn the production into one of hysterics; taking you out of the story, but these fine men and women crossed over into camp only occasionally. They used it more as an accessory than the whole outfit. This left you focusing on the performances of drag kings and queens–and what performance they were! The cast really owned their parts; acted and reacted as the characters of the show with just hints of melodramaticism, which the story of Dreamgirls lends itself to anyway. This left you highly entertained and whooping it up at the points where the kings and queens would go all out.
Technically, the show was amazing. Using lighting, front screen projection and a total of…maybe 6 set props: a piano, a few chairs and rollaway make-up mirror table, the ‘Salute to the Divas’ gave you just enough information to know where and when you were. And the costumes were spot-on from what you had seen in the movie; from the dresses and gloves during ‘Dreamgirls’ to Effie’s skirt-suit during ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’ The performances from the cast were terrific with some of the numbers including the amazing Howard Theatre dancers. The cast not only did lip sync to the songs of Dreamgirls but also some of the dialogue, too. This helped to fill in some of the gaps of needed information between the songs to move the story forward. The cast did well with this spoken lip sync. I imagine that it must have been extremely difficult to match your lips up to the words when there is no music to help cue you. To do this and to act in order to bring life to a character is a feat that I congratulate the cast for doing so well. I also enjoyed that the show included drag kings as well as drag queens. Kings do not get their due respect. Being female performing as a male does not always lend itself to the flamboyance, glitter and grandeur as much as a drag queen, but being a drag king is no less a talent as is shown by this performance.
Sadly, like Effie’s other powerful song of the show, this revue was for one night only. But the ‘Salute to the Divias’ don’t disband like the Dreams. These gals do performances regularly at The Howard Theatre; about every other month. The performances range from a standard drag revue to productions such as the one they did for Dreamgirls. If you are in the DC area sometime, be sure to check them out. The newly renovated Howard offers a supper club type atmosphere that allows you to get dinner and a show in one venue. And with the Divas, what a show you’ll see.