MODESTO — The creators behind the musical "Dreamgirls" denied that it had any connection to the story of the Supremes and Diana Ross, but many believe otherwise.
There are a lot of similarities between the two girl groups the real-life Supremes and the fictional Dreams in the musical. For example, the lead singer of both the Dreams and the Supremes was replaced by a performer considered more attractive; both the Dreams and Supremes sung background vocals for established artists before setting out on their own, and in both groups the new lead singer had a love affair with the group's manager.
But at least one cast member in Big League Productions' touring show coming Jan. 11-13 to Modesto's Gallo Center for the Arts said she doesn't worry too much about the history behind the show.
Jasmin Richardson, who plays Deena Jones, the character who appears to be modeled after Ross, said she tried to create a fresh approach to the role.
Though she did watch videos of Ross and other singers from the 1960s to learn the dance moves and style of the era, she doesn't attempt to do an impersonation.
Richardson long has been a fan of "Dreamgirls" because her mother, who is an actress and high school theater teacher, had the soundtrack and played it all the time. Her mother is "over the moon" that she was cast in the show.
"It's a dream role," she said. "(Deena) has such a huge arc you can see her when she was a 16-year-old young girl until she's older and more seasoned. I get to grow as a performer and I get to grow as the character."
"Dreamgirls" opened on Broadway in 1981 and won six Tony Awards. The movie version came out in 2006 and featured pop singer Beyoncé as Deena Jones. Also in the film were Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover and "American Idol" runner-up Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress.
Richardson said the show has many fans because it's such an iconic story.
"You get a sense that these are real people, real human beings aside from their glamorized onstage personality," she said. "You can see the real nitty gritty of who these people are from Lorrell dating a married man to Deena, the ugly duckling, becoming a lead singer. Then there's Effie's story about having an incredible voice but not being considered the most beautiful to represent the group.
"These are real human people dealing with real human situations and relationships. You can learn from it and grow from it."
The show is demanding for Richardson and the other cast members because it's so emotional. She finds it challenging to play the scene where the manager, Curtis, tells Effie she can't be the lead singer anymore. "To hear someone say your sister is not physically attractive it's hard," Richardson said, referring to the fact that her character Deena and Effie are as close as sisters.
Deena's relationship with Curtis is also draining, Richardson said. Curtis is so ambitious that Deena is basically his product.
The touring production features about 25 people in the cast plus an orchestra. There are dozens of gorgeous costumes one of Richardson's favorite things about the show.
"We get to be divas," Richardson said. "We get to be superstars." She alone wears 19 wigs and 20 or more costumes. "In one song, I switch dresses three times," she said.
The set is minimal because most of the spectacle will come from the costumes and lights.
Richardson said she would recommend the musical for anybody age 11 and older.
"It's a true classic and that's why it's been around so long," she said. "Please come and see it. It's completely different than any other show."
WHEN: 8 p.m. Jan. 11; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Jan. 12, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 13
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 338-2100