The melodies of "Dreamgirls" are so infectious and exciting that any new release of them, in almost any new form,is an occasion for celebration, and what's a real delight here is that the producers of the 2006 film have found a cast of performers worthy of the songs. Eddie Murphy may be the best and most dynamic James Thunder Early ever to play the part, and although no-one can ever quite equal Jennifer Holliday's Broadway creation of Effie White, Jennifer Hudson is as superior a fit to the part as could otherwise have been possibly found. Beyoncé is quite a decent Deena, and Anika Noni Rose is a fine Lorrell (although she is deprived of Lorrell's big song, "Ain't No Party," through some insane directing decision). Keith Robinson makes a sweet C.C.; only Jamie Foxx disappoints as Curtis, sounding horrible on his big number "When I First Saw You."
I was grateful that most of the actual songs from the original production have survived, even the tantalizing little snippets of songs that bring the Dreams to the top of the pops in the story's mythical 1960s & 70s universe: "Step On Over," "I'm Somebody," "Love, Love You Baby," etc. The biggest problem with this recording is its rearrangements of the famous (and glorious) original orchestrations of the show. These changed orchestrations seem engineered to make the album sell better to today's audiences, but also work exactly against the point of the musical's story. Almost all of the R&B swing has been so drained from some of the songs, so that they seem like "Cadillac Car" after it has been retooled for the show's Pat Boone analogue to put over for white audiences. Thus, when Curtis re-engineers the Dreams to sing a disco cover of "One Night Only" to keep in step with the Seventies, it seems almost pointless: all their previous songs (except for the funky "Move") sound already like disco versions. This is pretty jarring, but nonetheless it shouldn't get in the way of your appreciation of Murphy and Hudson, nor of the charming new additions to the score: "Love You I Do," "Patience," and "Listen."