Three ambitious teenage girls set out to win a singing talent contest at the Apollo Theatre and launch a music career in the entertainment industry in the early sixties.
Unfortunately their dreams are crushed when they lose the talent contest; in return they are quickly snatched up by a sly car dealer, slash wanna-be music industry manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. who lands them a gig singing back up for the famous James 'Thunder' Early. From then on, Curtis ambitiously goes on to transform the young girls into world renown pop divas. In the midst of catapaulting the girl group into superstardom, he lies, cheats, steals and swindles everyone around him:
Curtis sells himself as a manager to the girls and gets the Dreamettes a gig singing backup for James Early.
The girls tour with the famous James "Thunder" and record their first song singing back up for the famous singer; C.C. makes his debut as songwriter/musical composer for the team.
Lorell and James Early begin an affair; Effie and Curtis become romantically involved.
Early's song, Cadillac Car, is stolen by a white pop group; Curtis takes the opportunity to steal James Early from his manager, Marty, and begin crossing over the Dreamettes and James Early to mainstream American pop audiences.
Curtis gives the Dreamettes a new name: the Dreams. He then proceeds to change the order of things, making Deena the new lead singer and Effie the back up singer.
Effie is uncomfortable with the new changes but manages the best she can to cope as the Dreams rise to stardom.
Deena becomes a star and Effie is suspicious of an affair between Curtis and Deena.
Effie acts up and causes drama between the group. (we later discover that she is pregnant)
Curtis fires Effie and replaces her with a slim, more attractive singer: Michelle Morris.
The Dreams have successfully risen to the top of the pop charts and successfully crossed over into mainstream America; Curtis is more controlling of the group than ever and puts James Early on the back burner.
The Dreams career continue to flourish as Effie struggles to find herself and get over her past. She finally builds the strength and courage to pursue a career in music again.
Lorell is fed up with James Early who's personal life and career is crumbling; she finally calls it quits.
Michelle and C.C. begin a romantic relationship which leads to a marriage proposal.
Deena is fed up with the manipulation and control that Curtis has over her.
C.C. finds Effie and reunites with his sister after years of being apart.
Effie and the Dreams record the same song: One Night Only. As result, Curtis tries to sabotage Effie's career.
C.C. quits working with Curtis and the Dreams, while James Early falls into a slump and is dumped from Curtis' artist management.
Deena stands up for herself and walks away from Curtis. She mends relations with Effie and is informed of Effie's child with Curtis.
Curtis is exposed for illegal dealings concerning his artist recording management and stealing of songs.
The Dreams unite for the last time, this time including Effie, to say good bye to their fans before they embark on their own separate journey's in life.
Dreamgirls takes audiences on journey into a rare "behind the scenes" glimpse of life as a recording artist in the entertainment industry. As the musical progresses, we somehow connect with the emotions of each character, and at some point we are able to identify with their struggle. Strip away the glamour, money, and fame and you see the lives of normal people dealing with the same issues as every other average person: love, loss, insecurity, despair, and in the end, hope. Although the setting is in the 1960's and 70's, the theme about relationships and journey to achieving a dream proves to be universally present and relevant.