Beyond American Idol
So, is Frenchie up to the task?
That’s what American Idol fans want to know about the current production of Dreamgirls, running through Sunday at the Sacramento Community Center Theater.
Singer Frenchie Davis appears as Effie, one of the main characters in this musical about dethroned singers. But Davis is best known as the zaftig American Idol contestant who was dethroned unceremoniously when the revelation that she’d modeled for an Internet porn site resulted in her banishment from the show.
It turns out that Davis has more vocal range than the average American Idol singer and, ironically, may have a longer career than all of them put together.
She’s also one of the reasons that this production of Dreamgirls is so interesting. It’s not only her voice, which is powerful. It’s not her stage presence, which isn’t always as polished as that of her fellow performers.
Rather, it’s the combination of Davis’ talent and her slight awkwardness, along with the fact that the audience is pulling for her, that adds a layer of poignancy to both her performance and the role of Effie. Effie is a unique singer who doesn’t fit into a marketer’s mold. Effie’s story feels like an extension of Davis’ own life, as does her willingness to plug away in the face of defeat.
Dreamgirls is a tribute to Motown-era singing groups, complete with stylish fashions and synchronized dancing. The musical lightly shadows the story of the Supremes and the rise of Diana Ross, though with a lot of poetic license. It also explores the innocence of the groups and their time in history, as well as the exploitation of talent and the underlying racial discrimination in the music business.
The Dreamgirls score blends R&B, soul, pop and gospel music. Though the music is wonderfully inclusive, fun and powerful, there is a lack of good “whistle-as-you-leave” songs.
This road production brings with it a showcase of talent besides Davis, including her fellow Dreams (Ramona Keller and Angela Robinson), manager Curtis Taylor (David Jennings) and soul singer Early (Harrison White). The nonstop singing and dancing is impressive and fun. However, on the night reviewed, there was a noticeable dip in energy toward the end of the first act, which the cast fought to regain throughout the remainder of the show. But none of this was a disappointment to the American Idol fans who came to see a former Idol but instead witnessed an emerging star.