When Candace Edwards first saw the movie “Dreamgirls”, she never imagined that one day she would step on stage playing Deena Jones, the role made famous in the 2006 movie by superstar singer Beyonce. However, this week Porchlight Music Theatre and Artistic Director Michael Weber opened “Dreamgirls” with Edwards as Jones, one of theatre’s most glamorous and coveted roles.
“I can say that it is one of the biggest roles for an African-American woman because so many people dream of being in the show,” said Edwards. “To be cast in the role is quite a feat.”
The Tony Award-winning show opened on Broadway in 1981 with Sheryl Lee Ralph as Jones. The book and lyrics are by Tom Eyen with music by Henry Krieger.
The story follows a female singing group that rises from humble beginnings to become one of the top singing group in the music industry. The group’s success causes internal friction and Jones breaks away as a solo artist under the guidance the group’s manager.
“People are familiar with the songs in ‘Dreamgirls’,” said Edwards. “But when they see the show they realize there is so much more. I think audiences will get a good sense of the story and the heartbreak the Dreamgirls go through.”
Edwards commends the work of the Porchlight production team, director and choreographer Brenda Didier and music director Doug Peck for a making the show work. She also wanted to put her own stamp on the role and add her own reactions to the story.
“I looked at the original Broadway show so I could get a sense of the story telling,” said Edwards. “I wanted to do it right and have an emotional journey.”
She also noted there rarely was a dry eye during rehearsals.
A graduate of Hillcrest High School and Columbia College with a BA in Broadcast Journalism, Edwards is coming off a successful run in Porchlight’s “Far From Heaven” as Sybil. She has also worked with American Theatre Company (“Hair”), Black Ensemble Theatre (“At Last: A Tribute to Etta James”) and Goodman Theatre (“Crowns”).
Joining Edwards on stage as the Dreamgirls are Donica Lynn as Effie White, the role that won an Academy Award for Jennifer Hudson, and Katherine Thomas as Lorrell Robinson. Evan Tyrone Martin plays the Dreamgirls manager Curtis Taylor Jr. Martin was also in “Far From Heaven.”
“It never crossed my mind I would get that role but it’s definitely a dream role,” said Edwards, who originally auditioned for the role of Lorrell. “It’s amazing to be part of this show.”
No doubt “Dreamgirls” will push Edward’s career forward. To that she stated, “I’m ready.”
Porchlight’s “Dreamgirls” is playing at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, through May 22. For tickets and information, call (773) 327-5252 or visit the web site at www.porchlighttheatre.org.