Dreamgirls the classic Broadway musical turned Oscar winning film, celebrates its 30th anniversary today. On December 20, 1981 a soon-to-be unforgettable cast took the stage at the Imperial Theatre for the premiere of the show, which was inspired by the backstage history of Motown supergroup The Supremes.
That was only the beginning. The show became a six-time Tony Award winner, including awards for best choreography and best actress in a musical for Jennifer Holliday.
The Dreamgirls cast worked nonstop during their time at the Imperial Theatre as they starred in eight shows a week. The original cast included Loretta Devine, Jennifer Holiday, Obba Babatunde, Cleavent Derricks, Ben Harney, and Sheryl Lee Ralph. The show-stopping musical number “And I Am Telling You” sung by Holiday also went on to be a number one single on the Billboard Music Charts and landed her the Grammy for best female R&B vocal performance. Dreamgirls stayed on Broadway until August of 1985.
In 2006, Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures decided to produce the Dreamgirls movie starring Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson (who won the 2006 Academy Award for best supporting actress). The movie, which had an $80 million dollar production cost set records as the most expensive film to feature an entirely African-American cast. Dreamgirls the movie also brought home a number of awards from the Grammys, Golden Globe’s, and the MTV Awards just to name a few.
Members of the original Broadway cast including Devine, Ralph, and Holliday came together this October for the 21st annual “Divas Simply Singing” benefit created to raise funds for AIDS as well as celebrate the 30th anniversary of Dreamgirls. Today we celebrate the anniversary of the Broadway premiere that launched or re-energized the careers of several prominent African-American performers over three decades.
WATCH THE ORIGINAL CAST PERFORM “AND I AM TELLING YOU” & “IT’S ALL OVER” AT THE 1982 TONY AWARDS: