Though I still had to fulfill an assignment that required I focus on writing and producing a TV segment, I was doing little sleeping (meaning no dreaming) in anticipation of this past weekend. On Friday, December 15th, New York City's Ziegfeld Theater was getting ready to unleash "DREAMGIRLS" on its most enthusiastic fans ten days before its national release (Christmas Day) and I would get the opportunity to see my 4th, 5th, and 6th installment of "DREAMGIRLS" en route to my "12 DAYS OF DREAMGIRLS" challenge. Also, after a year of constant chat about "DREAMGIRLS" and a weekend getaway back in February when my boyfriend Anthony came from across the miles to take me to see the Prince Street Theater's performance of "Dreamgirls" in Philadelphia, he managed to set up some New York City-based interviews around a piece he's producing on the movie. Unfortunately, the opening night of "DREAMGIRLS" at the Ziegfeld was sold out (as was Saturday and Sunday). But Anthony would have to leave New York to go back to Denver on Saturday morning. So, we'd have to work magic to get him into that screening as there were no set-asides and p.r. lists for these particular screenings.
First things first, though, Anthony came to town and put us both up at - where else? - a boutique hotel in midtown Manhattan called "DREAM". Special pun, wouldn't you say? But bigger than our tony digs is who he would be interviewing in the suite. It was the musician behind all of my favorite songs
in "DREAMGIRLS", Henry Krieger. Before I knew what exactly the plot of "DREAMGIRLS" was, there was Henry Krieger, whose music was married to the lyrics of his now-late creative partner Tom Eyen, he made his own DREAMS come true via a a Tony nod for Best Score in 1982 for "Dreamgirls;" and in 1998, for Best Score, his music with Bill Russell's lyrics, for "Side Show." At 12, I would listen to my "DREAMGIRLS" album over and over, taking in all of the beautiful music and - depending on the side - imagining myself "James 'Thunder' Early" on "Fake Your Way to the Top" or Curtis on "Cadillac Car" or C.C. on "Family". Truth be told, I too imagined myself Effie on "Move", "One Night Only", "I Am Changing", and the showstopper "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going". And if I'm completely honest, I did more than imagine myself Deena. I WAS DEENA JONES... and I was WONDERFUL! "What can I say, but wonderful! Yes,... wonderful!!!!!". So to know that my boyfriend would be interviewing him meant I needed to be there too, so I could meet the man behind this amazing music, which for the movie, goes even further as he composed and collaborated with different songwriters to produce four new songs for the film adaptation of "DREAMGIRLS", including a breakthrough song for Deena (per Beyonce) "Listen" (kind of a Diana Ross' "It's My Turn" for the lead character, whose loosely based on Ross). As the crew lit for the interview, I waited with baited breath for Mr. Krieger's arrival. He came in and was gracious and warm. Anthony asked some great questions and got some good insight out of Krieger, including why character Lorell's song "Ain't No Party" isn't in the movie. Basically, they felt the song was too comical and emotionally removed from where they wanted the movie to be at that point. But then, I got to weigh in and ask some quick questions as he generously signed my "DREAMGIRLS" soundtrack(s) - the original and the new. He too agreed to a picture. Then, I asked him how Diana Ross came to sing one of his "DREAMGIRLS" songs "Family" in her legendary 1983 Central Park Concert, given she was reportedly not a fan of the piece. He didn't exactly answer how 'the song found her', but pointed out that "DREAMGIRLS" and Diana had people in common, like choreographer, the late, great Michael Peters. He said that Peters invited him to Diana's Central Park Concert that July day in 1983 and she wanted to adjust a lyric in the song for her show and discuss it with him. In the musical, C.C. sings: "... you can't stop us now because of how you feel...". Diana wanted to change the "you"s to "they"s. But before Krieger could hammer this out, he waited for her with Peters in her dressing room. When Diana appeared, Peters noted "... speaking of the devil.". Krieger, ever-the-storyteller, noted that Diana replied with sass: "I am NOT the devil!!!!". They all got a laugh (and I had to pick myself up off the floor from having received such a lovely anecdote on my diva from one of my favorite composers). THIS IS "THE LIFE OF RILEY"!!!! I couldn't make it up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZ724bS6otg
Once I had this moment, I needed a cigarette (because it was like good sex - having met him). But of course, I'm joking because I don't smoke. But I was "schvitzing" for sure. (Sweating... and in awe!!!). After Anthony wrapped his shoot, we still didn't have a ticket for him to accompany me that night, but trusted that we'd be able to prayerfully "bum" one a couple of hours before the 8:00 showtime. So, we made the most of what the balance of the afternoon had to offer by joining our friend Melony who we met at my Seattle-based friend Jabu's birthday party which transpired within the weekend of my own birthday extravaganza. We met Melony through Monica, my amazing grace Nichole's New Rochelle neighbor. Melony is here in America with her husband, a South African TV host. They will both pursue education and professional opportunities around their expertise in TV and film production. Anthony and I bonded with Melony the night of the party and got to further know how she ticks through our afternoon in New York City with her. We hopped in a cab down to The Village to grab a bite. She nor Anthony wanted my chosen cuisine, "Pink Tea Cup" soul food. Anthony nor I wanted her chosen cuisine, Indian. But somehow we all landed on "Thai" as a food we could each enjoy. "Lemongrass Grill" was renovating. So, we tried our luck with an unsuspecting Thai cafe on Bleecker Street. We enjoyed saki cocktails - inspired by mojitos and pina coladas. I had BBQ chicken and shrimp fried rice. And we had lovely conversation. We look forward to more times with Melony.
Meanwhile, back at "DREAMGIRLS" headquarters, Anthony and I lucked out by bartering two extra tix that I had bought for Saturday afternoon for one young lady's sole ticket that she was poised to use on opening night. To sweeten the deal, I gave her some cash to go to dinner on that night instead. She went for it... and Anthony was in. When we walked into the regal Ziegfeld Theater lobby, there were a couple of displays and screens - highlighting the behind-the-scenes of "DREAMGIRLS" - from costumes to film sets. I ran into Luther Vandross' best friend from childhood and his often background singer Fonzi Thornton, who I had a chance to meet when I was given an opportunity to see Luther at his assisted living home before he passed away. He gave me a big hug and said "Oh, Patrick. I wish Luther was here to enjoy this. I've been waiting 25 years for this movie. And I just know he would enjoy it!". I comforted him by saying "Luther is here....!!!!". He smiled and introduced me to his movie buddy and we segued to our respective seats. One of my Morehouse best friends Michael K. Watts bought my ticket as a birthday gift, so he and I could see it together. So, unfortunately, Anthony and I couldn't sit together. But I felt his energy and he mine. Another special tale inside of this "DREAMGIRLS" mania is my friend Devon (from Cleveland. Remember? My pop culture soul mate - especially around "DREAMGIRLS" and "DIANA") made a decision to hop on a 2:00 am Friday morning Greyhound bus from Cleveland to New York City. He didn't have a ticket, but felt like he was going to get into the movie somehow. Ironically, Devon, who has seen many road tours of "DREAMGIRLS" over the years, ran into one of the guys who played C.C. in the early '90s at a New Jersey bus stop. Devon knew that was a sign. From there, he made it to NYC in record time. He still didn't have a ticket at the point which Anthony and I went into the theater, but before the house lights went down, my Devon's dream came true as a woman who played Deena in a Hackensack, NJ-run of "DREAMGIRLS" gave him an extra ticket she had. What testimonial. Afterwards, our friends Jason, Marquise, Mario, and Marlynn joined Anthony, Devon, Michael, and me for post-movie chat and chew at BBQ. We also went to my friend Brian's spot "No Parking" in Washington Heights for a night-cap.
Several hours later, my boo had to get on a flight back West. And I would soon have to turn it around to enjoy the 2:00 pm matinee of "DREAMGIRLS". This time, I was attending with my friends Tata, Ern, and Kimberly Jajuan, who played Michelle some years ago in a road tour of "DREAMGIRLS". This was screening #5 for me... and I must admit, I cried this time. It was nice to share it with Ern who knows to what degree I have loved "DREAMGIRLS" and has jumped aboard recently with his appreciation for the piece, especially after American Idol's Jennifer Hudson came to be cast. We loved Jennifer Hudson on the show and grew to love her more and more after she was booted off. That screening was special. (The pic of Kimberly, Ern, and me is from "The Color Purple" Tony Awards after party)
Then, last night, I went back to the 8:00 pm show with my Frankie Edozien, who bought my ticket. We went with his boyfriend Enye. And a couple of their friends Albert and Ricky joined us. My Mario came back. I ran into another "DREAMGIRLS" soul mate Lee, who was seeing it for the first time. Also, a new friend Roderick was there. And I stumbled into my Spelman sister Toni Herron who was there to meet her friends. When she told me she had an extra ticket, I called Devon, who was staying with Michael, to have him come down and see "DREAMGIRLS" again. I figured since he came from Cleveland all the way on a bus, he should see it twice. So, that was a blessing I was thrilled to help facillitate. Meanwhile, it was in this - my 6th - screening, where I realized how powerful "DREAMGIRLS" is showing up. As a film, it is shattering the figurative fourth wall and bringing the viewing audience inside in a way that I've never experienced in a film. The audiences are clapping, cheering, and giving standing ovations to people who are not on stage. The performers are inside a screen. And yet, different than a camp classic like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" where everybody sings along and pulls out umbrellas when it's raining on the screen, "DREAMGIRLS" - from the six screenings I've seen of it - is offering an inspired, energized, and - like theater - elegant version of that. And the audiences are just taken under the spell of these magical artists - the men and the women - and given something that is so exciting to experience in a theater. The audience is now a member of the cast of "DREAMGIRLS". And for me (and many I've polled), it's something to see again and again and again... with loved ones and strangers. I am so invested in "DREAMGIRLS" now, I am almost now going to see it for the film and the audience energy after Jennifer Hudson's powerful scenes, but also each and every one of the other players in the stellar cast. "DREAMS see us through to forever", sings Diana Ross in her international hit "If We Hold On Together". And I think "DREAMGIRLS" is a vessel to ensure that. One need look no further than the Golden Globe nominations to know that more DREAMS are on order. Beyonce is nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. Same for Eddie Murphy in his category. But the beginnings of Oscar buzz for Jennifer Hudson is that much closer to a reality as she too was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe.
After the screening, Lee, Roderick, Devon, and I were joined by Michael K. Watts, who wanted to participate in our post-viewing chat. We had a late dinner at a diner. From there, we all ventured down to bid my friend Diaz a Happy Birthday at the STAY Lounge on Houston between Avenues A & B. We danced and enjoyed lots of eye candy. We too appreciated seeing some of our favorites like one of the former 3 'MO TENORS Victor Trent Cook and Mariah Carey's background singer and singer in his own right (with a new album in stores now), Trey Lorenz. Writer Keith Boykin was there as well as Derrick Briggs whose become one to watch with his book club and evening events for the "children". With one more "No Parking" night cap and some food to soak up the gin & juice (Tanquery and cranberry), it was 6:00 am as I found myself coming in this morning. So, "DREAMS" see us through to forever (and sometimes keep us up and away from the rapid-eye-movement version of our "DREAMS"). I'll catch up on my sleep yet and - trust me - I'll be having SWEET ones.