Theater & Performing Arts

Dream Girls

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. and Sundays, 3 & 6 p.m. Continues through June 28 2009

An amalgamation of the 1981 Broadway musical and 2006 Hollywood film, Black Repertory Theatre's Dream Girlswhittles down its source material, but keeps the plot pretty much intact. By now, it's a familiar story: three R&B starlets -- at least two of whom can actually sing -- fall in the hands of a corrupt aspiring mogul named Curtis Taylor (played by newbie actor Charles Hardy Jr.). He helps launch their girl group, the Dreamettes, by bribing radio DJs and judges-of-talent competitions. Then he banishes the talented lead singer Effie White (played with ferocity by Danesha Simon) and causes the group's dissolution. It's a melodramatic but believable story about how love, sex, ambition, commercialism, and misogyny complicate the music business. In this version, though, the real payoff isn't the story per se, but the musical numbers within it. Big-voiced Simon manhandles all of her solo numbers, as does her counterpart NicoliaBagby, playing the Diana Ross-inspired chanteuse Dina Jones. Dion Overstreet knows how to ham it up as the lecherous soul singer James "Thunder" Early. A mock-up production of Showtime at the Apollo gives Black Rep a chance to show off some of the rising stars in its music programs. To top it all off, ex-Tower of Power frontman Lenny Williams makes two cameos. Three decades after his heyday, he still dazzles. Through June 28 at Berkeley's Black Repertory Theatre (3201 Adeline St.) $15-44

Rachel Swan

Price: $15-20, $44 for the soul food champagne gala on June 28

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