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West End Star Joe Aaron Reid speaks about Dreamgirls and its importance

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The sensational Olivier Award and Tony Award-winning Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre has been a massive success since it’s opening on the West End; continuously playing to a sold-out theatre and being given standing ovations every night.

West End and Broadway star Joe Aaron Reid plays opposite Amber Riley’s Effie as the musical’s main antagonist, Curtis Taylor Jr.

 

Dreamgirls is a show I’d always wanted to be a part of,” Joe says. “I originally auditioned for the role of C.C [White] in the movie, which was a long time ago.

"For the show, they wanted to see me for Jimmy Early and I thought ‘I’m not really a Jimmy…I’m more of a Curtis’. And the more I thought about the idea of playing Curtis, the more I convinced myself that I’m absolutely a Curtis. I thought this would work out and then it did in my favour and I’m really excited that I got this role.”

Curtis Taylor Jr is the record producer that is going to bring The Dreams into the popular market and abuses the power he holds over the three girls. On the topic of getting into character, Joe says: “I watched the movie. I watched the little bit of YouTube clips that I could find. I did a little bit of research into the Motown era, a little bit on Barry Gordy.”

Barry Gordy, infamous Motown music producer, was the inspiration for the character of Curtis Taylor Jr, and whilst the reality was used as inspiration, it wasn’t the be all and end of Joe’s approach to Curtis: “I tried not to limit myself to anything that was like ‘this is what actually happened’ and in facts. Because it’s fictionalised, you really get to immerse yourself and let the story take you to wherever it takes you.”

Dreamgirls isn’t the only show that Joe Aaron Reid has been a part of, it’s only the most recent – and, he confides, it'd the hardest production he’s worked on so far.

“It is unlike any other show I’ve been a part of,” Joe says. “In other shows, there is a lot of ebbing and flowing in terms of energy and what’s going on in the story, in characters, in what’s happening onstage. Dreamgirls is two and a half hours of non-stop energy, drama and intensity. I mean, there’s not one scene that I have where I’m not yelling at somebody, confronting someone about something. For me, why I’m exhausted at the end of the show is just the sheer intensity of it.”

The intensity of Dreamgirls comes not just from the strain of the vocal challenges and full-pelt dance numbers but from the severity and sensitivity of some of the show's themes. Dealing with racism and the abuse of power and the strength of women in some of the worst situations, these are the topics that can leave a weight upon the actors. But, in the current situations, Dreamgirls holds important messages not just for the theatre but for all media, and Joe agrees.

“The great thing is that we get audiences of every kind of creed, colour, class, so even though it’s a piece of theatre, you’re getting to reach out to everyone,” he says.

“Unfortunately, a lot [of the show’s messages are] still relevant. Living in London with Brexit, and me being American and the whole Trump thing – we are in a very scary kind because it feels a little as if we’re backsliding as a society a little bit.

"I think [the themes of Dreamgirls are] very universal so anyone who comes to see the show can relate to those things in any way shape or form. The reaction to our show each night is a testimony to just how important of a piece of theatre it is.”

If you haven’t been convinced to take the chance to see Joe Aaron Reid in this spectacular performance, Joe has some words to persuade you: “Honestly, I think I can say this from an unbiased perspective - it’s one of the best shows in London. You know tickets cost a lot of money in the West End, and I think you get your money’s worth. I think it’s a great night of theatre. I think it’s touching - 90% of the audience would tell us ‘you had my crying, then you had me laughing and then you had me laughing while I was crying’.

“I think really good theatre moves people and it touches people and they don’t forget that feeling and I think our show does that.

"Additionally, you have an amazing story with amazing voices, amazing performances, amazing choreography, amazing sets, amazing costumes. I don’t know of anyone who has felt disappointed when they leave the show.

"It’s one of the hottest tickets you can find in London and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

To get tickets for this stage show, check out the Savoy Theatre website.

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