“All you have to do is dream,” we’re told in “Dreamgirls,” but sometimes drama comes along with the package. It’s one of the things that makes the Tony Award-winning musical such a winning endeavor. That, and the music.
The show, which made a cult hit out of the song “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” in both the stage and film versions, offers something fresh in a new production opening today at the Curran Theatre.
In a growing trend that mixes the best of two media, one of the film’s core popular songs, “Listen,” has been incorporated into the stage version; it’s an Act 2 soul-stirring duet with the characters Effie and Deena. Also new: “What Love Can Do,” which opens the second act.
“‘Listen’ signifies that moment where Deena finds the power within herself to stand up to [the character of] Curtis and also resolves the conflicts between the two girls — it’s the eleven o’clock number that was always missing from the original production,” says Syesha Mercado, who plays Deena in the Best of Broadway show in The City.
Audiences may recognize Mercado. She found the spotlight as the second runner-up in “American Idol’s” seventh season and her first album is due soon.
She says the best thing about playing Deena is putting her own signature on the role.
“I researched girl groups and singers of the ’60s and ’70s,” she says. “I studied the fashion and the mannerisms of that time and I went to my script and developed a backstory and wrote out all the similarities I shared with Deena and then used some of my personal experiences to make it even more real.
“There’s nothing like sharing that journey with the audience night after night,” she says.
Mercado’s passions mirror the ones beautifully brought to life in the 1981 Broadway show, which hypnotically featured the handiwork of director/choreographyer Michael Bennett (“Promises, Promises,” “A Chorus Line,” “Follies”) and Michael Peters, who went on to choreograph Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
The musical also captured the musical zeitgeist of the ’60s, chronicling the rise of gal crooners The Dreamettes (later The Dreams), the fall of its lead singer (Effie) and the Phoenix-like ascension of back-up singing babe Deena.
“The story resonates on so many levels,” Mercado adds. “Everyone can relate to being broken down and that feeling of being defeated, but you pick yourself up and find the path that’s right for you.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Best of Broadway
Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays; closes Sept. 26
Tickets: $30 to $99
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com