Robert Longbottom's new production, sadly, won't erase any memories of Bennett's. Visually ineffective despite its fancy digital displays, and featuring loud, one-dimensional performances, the new Dreamgirls loosens the show's grip till it might seem to be just another extravaganza, though the writing still grabs you. Only Chester Gregory, spectacularly effective as an egocentric r&b star, breaks through the production's built-for-touring torpor.

Some ever-fresh songs by the Gershwins, in their brassily youthful original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett, gave the City Center Encores! concert staging of Girl Crazy (1930) its occasional moments of liveliness. Here, too, except for Marc Kudisch as a secondary slimeball, the cast all came off as road-company replacements; Ana Gasteyer supplied Merman-like loudness but no feeling or flair, and Jerry Zaks's staging was merely efficient, sloughing off the rare chance to gauge the post-extravaganza, pre-"integrated" musical at its best.

Fela!—fierce enthusiasm, scattershot results
Monique Carboni
Fela!—fierce enthusiasm, scattershot results

Details

Dreamgirls
By Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger
Apollo Theater
253 West 125th Street, 800-982-2787

Girl Crazy
By George and Ira Gershwin, Guy Bolton, and Fred Thompson
City Center Encores!
131 West 55th Street (Closed)

Fela!
By Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Eugene O'Neill Theater
230 West 49th Street, 212-239-6200

ALSO:
Fela! on Broadway: The Feature Story
By Rob Harvilla

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mfeingold@villagevoice.com

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