Sunday, July 26, 2009

Statement: The World of The Play
After watching the musical Dreamgirls one might recall the dynamic African American group of the sixties: Diana Ross and the Supremes. Although the creators of Dreamgirls deny any direct link to Diana and the Supremes, it is obvious that The Supremes experience as America's most successful female pop group in the early 60's and 70's, influenced the story line of the musical. 
For example, controversy over a new lead signer of the group, replacement of a troublesome member, and an affair between performer and manager were all incidents that happened to The Supremes and sure enough, events that also took place in Dreamgirls.  Additionally the characters in Dreamgirls seem to parallel other individuals from the hit Motown Record company. Many references through out the musical suggest sly business manager/husband Curtis Taylor, as a reflection of Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records and infamous Diana Ross svengali. Also, similarities between James "Thunder" Early and Marvin Gaye are questioned. 
Regardless of whether or not it was the intention of the creators to imitate the story of The Supremes, it is obvious that the success of The Supremes and Motown (along with other popular music acts of the time) influenced the Dreamgirls storyline. 

By the end of the 1950's, America was on the verge of change. As the baby boomer generation emerged so did a new way of thinking. The sixities experienced the birth of a counterculture revolution that dramatically changed the face of America politically, economically, and socially. War, shifting values, and the cry for equality and justice for African Americans and other minorities, as well, created tensions that needed a place for release. The emergence of drugs and art served as an outlet for Americans to express themselves and forget about the differences that divided them. As laws prohibiting segregation and efforts condoning the integration of minorities into society increased, windows of opportunity were waiting to be opened by African Americans in the entertainment industry. Although it wasn't easy at first, there was no better time or moment in entertainment history for African American groups to cross over into the likes of mainstream White American audiences. And of course, it took no other but the confident, snake-like, ambitions of Curtis Taylor to see that. 

After the British invasion of the Beatles rocked American audiences in the early sixties, Pop music exploded onto the American market. The sound of pop music is classified as simple, conservative and appealing to a large audience. Record companies were quick to profit off America's hunger for pop music and made sure to give audiences what they wanted. Since profit was the main goal, and mainstream Americans craved that light, fun "pop" sound, record labels often ignored pushing soul artists. The image of the artist was driven by marketability as a whole. We see this presents a problem in Dreamgirls when Curtis makes Deena the lead voice and head of the girl group because of her marketability to mainstream America, resulting in pushing Effie aside even though she has the stronger (more soulful) voice of the bunch. Tensions then reach their climax when Effie is kicked out of the group and replace by the slimmer and more marketable singer, Michelle.

Along with the rise of the counterculture movement came the emergence of the sexual revolution. With the technological research advancements in medicine, doctors were able to treat venereal diseases as well as control pregnancies with contraceptives. This along with other events, helped trigger the exploration of  sex amongst Americans, particularly in the youth. The idea of "free love" spread across the nation and invited people to explore their sexuality more freely than before. As result, pre marital sex was more common and not looked down upon so much as it was in previous times. During a scene when the girls are in the dressing room changing, Lorell and Effie gush about their sexual experience with men and it's natural occurance between people who love each other.  This suggests that they were in tune with the notion of premarital sex that stemmed from the idea of 'free love,' which was growing increasingly popular at the time.  

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