Beyonce Knowles & Bill Condon Dreamgirls

Beyonce Knowles & Bill Condon Dreamgirls


Cast: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Sharon Leal, Hinton Battle
Director: Bill Condon
Genre: Drama, Musical
Rated: PG
Running Time: 130 minutes

Synopsis: In 1960s Detroit, a good night onstage can get you noticed but it won't get your song played on the radio. Here, a new kind of music is on the cusp of being born - a sound with roots buried deep in the soul of Detroit itself, where songs are about more than what's on the surface, and everyone is bound together by a shared dream.

Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx) is a car salesman aching to make his mark in the music business - to form his own record label and get its sound heard on mainstream radio at a time when civil rights are still only a whisper in the streets. He just needs the angle, the right talent, the right product to sell.

Late for their stint in a local talent show, The Dreamettes - Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles), Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose), and lead singer Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) - show up in their cheap wigs and homemade dresses, rehearsing songs and steps by Effie's brother, C.C. (Keith Robinson), with hopes that talent and sheer desire will break them out of the only life that seems available to them.

They're young. They're beautiful. They're just what Curtis is looking for.

All they have to do is trust him.

James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy) is a pioneer of the new Detroit sound, spellbinding audiences all along the "Chitlin' Circuit" with his electrifying blend of soul and rock 'n' roll. Curtis finesses The Dreamettes a gig singing backup for Early, and suddenly, for all of them, the gulf between what they want and what they can have draws closer for the first time.

Curtis launches the girls as a solo act, rechristening them The Dreams, knowing in his gut that success lies not with the soulful voice of Effie, but with the demure beauty and malleable style of Deena - despite their historyand Curtis' promises. Deena is ready to step into the spotlight, even as Effie fades away.

As a new musical age dawns, Curtis' driving ambition pushes this one-time family to the forefront of an industry in the throes of music revolution. But when the lights come up and the curtains part, they hardly recognise who they've become. Their dreams are finally there for the taking, but at a price that may be too heavy for their hearts to bear.

Release Date: 18th of January, 2007

All You Have To Do Is Dream: Bringing the Legend to Life

"I'm not the dream that you had before.
I'm the dream that will give you more and more."

"Dreamgirls" was an anomaly when it came to life on the Broadway stage in the early 1980s directed by Michael Bennett. While visually the play was unlike anything ever attempted on Broadway, it was the intense human drama and moving, show-stopping songs that redefined musical theater for the era. "There is something primal about musicals," says writer-director Bill Condon, who was galvanised as he sat in the back row with some friends on opening night. "They can get under your skin in a way that straight dramas can't. In "Dreamgirls," the emotions bleeding through the songs made it a profoundly affecting experience."

Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger's earthy fable about real emotions - love, ambition, anguish, passion - deeply resonated with a vast cross-section of people. "We all know what it's like to desperately want something we can't have," Bill Condon continues. "We all know what it's like to be left behind. Or to sacrifice everything for something you think you want, only to realise too late what you've lost. Here, in these characters, was all the hope and anguish laid bare. It's what has stayed with me all these years later, and what I wanted to bring back to life in this film."

"The themes of this story seem to be even more relevant today than they were twenty-five years ago," notes producer Laurence Mark. "What are the gains and losses that accompany fame? What are the consequences if you don't compromise? What are the consequences if you do? Is talent something to be packaged and sold? And finally, in the quest to hang on to your dreams, how can you also hang on to yourself?"

The setting is the Motor City, where African-American music is on the verge of breaking down the doors of the mainstream American music scene. "This story takes place in the '60s and '70s, which was a period of vast social and political change," says Bill Condon. "The characters in 'Dreamgirls' reflect that upheaval."

Not only was music in transition, but so was the country. "This film takes place in a very unique time in history, the beginning of the urbanisation of music," adds cast member Danny Glover. "The rise of the Civil Rights movement was bringing segregation to its end. The focus was shifting to the urban centers in the country."

The story finds one man trying to break in at that precise moment. Jamie Foxx, who won the Academy Award® for his portrayal of Ray Charles in "Ray," in addition to being nominated for Best Supporting Actor for "Collateral," plays Curtis Taylor, Jr., a hungry young businessman who sells Cadillacs as a springboard to a bright future he feels destined for. "Curtis is a rough-edged kind of guy who is trying to get into the music business," says Jamie Foxx. "He just wishes that he could have sung better, could have written better music, could have played some type of instrument, but he can't. So, he does what he can to get to the top by managing talent. I think that comes with a curse for him - on some level, he wishes it was him out there. He's working every angle until he finds an opening."

With "girl groups" sprouting up from gospel choirs across the country, talent night at the local club proves to be a goldmine. "Curtis is everywhere, putting things together," says Bill Condon. He finds his vehicle when he sets his eyes on The Dreamettes. "They are three hungry, excited, anxious, naïve girls," says Beyoncé Knowles. The Platinum-selling musical artist stars as Deena Jones, a role she was told at the tender age of 16 that she was born to play. "It's so exciting for them to be there because they want this so bad. They want to be in the music industry. Their futures are entirely in front of them, and they think they've got what it takes to make it. When Curtis sees them, he sees all that potential."

Beautiful but circumspect, Deena's soft voice belies her ambition and competitive nature. "She's the hustler," Beyonce Knowles describes. "She wants to get them onstage. They're ready for this. It's what they've been rehearsing so hard for. Their whole lives have led up to this moment."

The group's lead singer, Effie White, is played by newcomer Jennifer Hudson. Not as refined as Deena and Lorrell, Effie is a young singer who, despite her immense talent, does not fit the mold of an up-and-coming star in the '60s. "Effie shows up in her fake leopard skin coat with her head held high," says Jennifer Hudson. "She knows she's got the voice to be a great singer. But she's also heart-breakingly naïve. She has this swagger - surrounded by her girls, her friends and back-up singers. She's really not prepared for what's about to happen to them. None of them really are."

The filmmakers conducted a six-month search, seeing more than 780 women to find the right combination of strength, passion and vulnerability to embody the character that made a young gospel singer named Jennifer Holliday a household name in the 1980s. "We held open auditions in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Atlanta, St. Louis, and here in L.A.," recalls casting director Debra Zane. "The role of Effie is so important; she's basically the heart of the movie. It was critical that we find exactly the right person to play this role."

Out of all the talented young women who were called, "American Idol" finalist Jennifer Hudson stood out. "I stood on the 'American Idol' stage and then was the one to leave," she says. "I was okay with it because I knew it wasn't my dream. I knew my dream was coming - and here it is. In a way, I'm like Effie - on that kind of rollercoaster and coming out of it with a deeper understanding of myself and my art."

Third in the group, singing back-up, is Lorrell Robinson, played by Tony Award-winning Broadway actress Anika Noni Rose. Anika Noni Rose sees her role as "the peacemaker in the group. When things go awry, she's the one who wants to pull it together and make it work, because these are her friends."

Lorrell is barely able to contain her excitement at their luck when Curtis puts The Dreamettes together with singing sensation and local celebrity James "Thunder" Early. "She is like a lamb to the slaughter," says Anika Noni Rose. "Here is this incredible man who to her is just the world's greatest superstar. Lorrell can't believe their luck."

Eddie Murphy, whose prodigious talent fueled his own meteoric rise on television in "Saturday Night Live" and films like "48 Hrs." and "Trading Places," plays James "Thunder" Early, a character Condon describes as "a force of nature. Nothing can hold him back when he's performing and that electric energy bleeds into his personal life."

For Eddie Murphy, Early represents the unique R&B spirit that was even then bleeding over into the consciousness of mainstream America. "Jimmy is perpetually on the edge of getting some national exposure, playing the cities," says Eddie Murphy. "Everyone loves him because he's really one of a kind. He just can't seem to break through, but he is an R&B originator, bringing the sound that white kids could dance to - like James Brown, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. While the country was still segregated, they were bridging the world of music, bringing 'black' sound to 'white' America. It wasn't until later that these performers realised just how much they accomplished."

As they aggressively tour the "Chitlin' Circuit," Effie's brother C.C. (Keith Robinson) writes songs and choreographs moves for the parallel acts. C.C., though quiet, is the ideal conduit through which Curtis can craft the artists into a marketable commodity. "C.C. is a gifted artist in his own right but he doesn't have the confidence to express what's really in his heart," says Robinson. "Like everybody else in their little group, he puts his trust in Curtis. And through his songwriting, he becomes this instrument, a tool Curtis uses to take on the roadblocks he wants to break through."

"They're all coming up together and it's so exciting," says Anika Noni Rose. "There's this sense of camaraderie and shared desire. Everything is fun. Everything is an experiment. The stakes are high but it's all really in the abstract - they're still in their own little world. This is a time when no one has crossed over. So, they can afford to experiment."

The more they're together, the closer Effie and Curtis become. "Curtis is Effie's first love," says Bill Condon. "Though gifted musically, she is still basically just a kid. Curtis is captivated by her sweet face and big voice. He's drawn to her talent."

When Curtis mixes with James "Thunder" Early, promising to break him out of the Chitlin' Circuit and into more uptown bookings, his longtime manager begins to see that the game has changed. Independent Spirit Award winner and acting legend Danny Glover plays Marty. Jamie Foxx enthuses, "Working alongside Danny, who is one of my heroes, is just incredible."

"Marty is an old school talent manager," describes Danny Glover. "He discovered James when he was a kid, so he's like a father figure to him. But he's also that generation of talent agents who are on their way out. Marty has a real integrity, but he is not able to move up to another level. Curtis can see the transformation coming and asserts himself within that transformation. He takes the nurturing business relationship that James had with Marty, and turns it into a purely business relationship."

Unable to break through the payola-dominated landscape of mainstream radio, Curtis makes a play for breaking in on his own terms, rather than handing everything over to white artists and promoters. "Curtis is a guy with a vision that African-American music can cross over to a broader white audience," Bill Condon explains. "And he'll do whatever it takes to get there."

Marty becomes the first casualty of Curtis's hunger to reach the next rung in the ladder, and ruthless methods for getting there. "What Marty sells is not disposable," comments Danny Glover. "It's an essence of something. What Curtis wants to sell is a commodity, an object. It's the object he's trying to sell, not the person."

Curtis reinvents Early as a soft-toned crooner - not the carnal roadhouse lothario with the explosive voice - to play before society types in the Miami clubs. "But James 'Thunder' Early is too much a force of nature to fit into this box that Curtis wants him in," says Bill Condon. "Curtis can't break down Jimmy's rough edges. He can't change who and what he is."

Bill Condon saw Eddie Murphy as flamboyant R&B star James "Thunder" Early even as he was adapting the screenplay. "I had Eddie Murphy in mind to play James Early from the beginning," Bill Condon remembers. "Fortunately, like me, Eddie Murphy had seen the original 'Dreamgirls' several times. And he loved the challenge of doing something that doesn't connect to anything he's done before."

"Eddie Murphy took the biggest risk," adds Lawrence Mark, "and he really went for it, aiming for the rafters."

"Eddie Murphy's the type of guy that can really do it all," notes Jamie Foxx. "His acting, his stand-up. All that talent. Then, he comes in here and goes into his song and dance number, it's incredible. You know you're working with great talent." Adds Beyonce Knowles, "Look out when Eddie Murphy takes the stage. He rocks in everything he does. The middle name in his character, 'Thunder,' really doesn't do justice to describing his energy and the effect he has on an audience."

Curtis next sets his sights on The Dreamettes and goes with his gut - Deena, the prettiest one, the one with the softest voice, is the way into the living rooms of mainstream America. Says Bill Condon, "He will groom them into this very sedate and sophisticated girl group. He reinvents them as The Dreamsbut that involves putting Effie in the background. It happens in the blink of an eye. And just like that, Effie's dreams are obliterated."

Bill Condon rolled cameras on Effie's character-defining song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," during the final four days of principal photography, which allowed Jennifer Hudson to completely inhabit the character of Effie before immortalising her watershed moment in the story. "Effie is shocked, and she feels betrayed," says Jennifer Hudson. "'And I Am Telling You' is about her heart and soul being laid out on the line. She's rejected by her family. They have all traded her in for something else. But she will not go quietly."

"In 'And I Am Telling You,' Effie is plaintively and desperately addressing Curtis, her lover," says Bill Condon. "What she's trying to make him hear is not just the words to the song, but her voice - which is really the essence of who she is. Everything about the song, including how it affects us, the audience, is an integral part of the experience of this story."

Effie acts out, showing up late for rehearsals, disrupting recording sessions, not letting them forget the pain she's in. What they call success to Effie looks like one long compromise. "So she goes home," says Bill Condon, "back to Detroit. She goes through her own transformation, treading an unexpected path, and suddenly a greater clarity about who she is and what she wants reveals itself."

Curtis has already replaced her with a young singer who has gotten her foot in the door by taking a secretarial job at Curtis's Rainbow Records. "She's a quick replacement for Effie when Curtis finally decides to get rid of her," says Bill Condon. Michelle, played by Sharon Leal, becomes the fourth Dream and soon falls for their underappreciated songwriter and choreographer, C.C. "Michelle is pursuing her own dreams," says Sharon Leal, "when she walks in on all this drama."

Deena has everything it takes to cross over, but the woman who turns everything she touches to gold, and the one she sees when she looks in the mirror, are no longer the same person. "Curtis is obsessed with Deena, in part because she is his creation," says Bill Condon. "He sees her as an image that he's packaging to the world."

Curtis sees Deena "as a product, a can of Coke," says Jamie Foxx. "He's willing to do anything to keep the music marketable, as opposed to really finding out what her sensibilities and her emotions are all about. Success is an exercise in compromise."

Having grown up in a singing group before emerging into her own spotlight, "Beyoncé Knowles has lived some of Deena Jones's story already," says Bill Condon. "She was born to play this role and understands it intuitively."

"It took a great deal of skill on Beyoncé Knowles' part for her to turn into Deena Jones," observes Lawrence Mark, "for her not to pull focus in the first section of the movie and to be a singer very different from herself throughout."

To physically embody Deena's transformation, Beyonce Knowles utilised only a percentage of her voice and downplayed her cover girl looks until the time came for Deena to step into the limelight. "Because Deena's performance style is so different from my style, I had to hold back, to remind myself, 'Don't sing it in full voice, sing it like Deena.' She is all about subtleties-she's very feminine and sexy, in a subtle, slightly mysterious way," observes Beyonce Knowles.

"Later, you see her growth," says Bill Condon. "You see that she's more than just a naïve girl from Detroit. When she gets onstage, something very sexy happens. "People are going to be very shocked," adds Beyoncé Knowles, "because I know they might be expecting 'Beyoncé Knowles,' but Beyoncé Knowles is nowhere in this movie."

Deena's star rises because Curtis' instincts are right on target. "The thing about Curtis is that he's almost always right about things," says Bill Condon. "And what he wants to do -- break through racial barriers to get black talent heard and seen - is heroic. But the more successful he becomes, the more brutal he is in his disregard for the dreams of the people around him.

"Curtis is someone who is addicted to dreams," Bill Condon continues. "As soon as he accomplishes one thing, he's on to the next."

"When people think of dreams," says Beyoncé Knowles, "they only think of beautiful, shiny things. They don't think about sacrifice and the price you pay to gain success and accomplish those dreams. There are so many complicated things that come along in life. And we touch on all of those things. But, ultimately, it's about getting those dreamsand for many of us, making 'Dreamgirls' was a dream."

Bill Condon infused the cast with two vital performers who appeared in the Broadway play a quarter century ago. Hinton Battle played James "Thunder" Early in the production as a summer replacement, taking over the role from its originator.

"'Dreamgirls' is special because it is truth; it is reality," says Hinton Battle. "It really tells the story of how things were, the struggle of the record industry, with payola and how white recording artists were taking songs from black artists and making them hits. Ultimately, though, it's a story of passion and love and all the great things we yearn for. The film has an ability to reflect on the past, but also comment on the future by dealing with where African-American music is in today's culture. That's what makes it even more relevant today."

In another nod to the original Broadway production, Loretta Devine-who originated the stage role of Lorrell Devine -appears in the film as a jazz diva. "At the time when we were doing 'Dreamgirls' onstage, we had no idea what we were creating and how important it would be 25 years later," muses Lorrell Devine, who feels Bill Condon's expanded storytelling will bring in a whole new audience. "The music is like opera. People respond to it because it's fabulous-it's beautiful; it's fashion; it's passion; it's talent; it's heart. And it has this great story, about love and about sisterhood."

Listen: Writer-Director Bill Condon Adapts the Book
"You don't know what I'm feeling.
I'm more than what you made of me.
I followed the voice you gave to me.
But now I've gotta find my own.
You should have listened."

The original Broadway production of "Dreamgirls" was "one of those experiences you never forget," Bill Condon remembers. "It was thrilling, with a brilliant cast and legendary staging by Michael Bennett. With the passage of time, I think it's possible to take a fresh look at this material. The story of the crossover success of African-American music during the 1960s resonates more than ever today, when African-American culture almost defines the mainstream."

"'Dreamgirls' came along when music was changing, when the industry began to recognise 'urban' influences," adds cast member Eddie Murphy. "Whatever they wanted to call it, it was the same thing - the R&B, rock roots dug by black artists, that is now the sound of the times. And here was this story about this group that rode their sound into mainstream pop America."

"I saw Michael Bennett's production of 'Dreamgirls' shortly after it opened, and it was an extraordinary, unforgettable experience," says Laurence Mark. "The look of that show and the music of that show have stayed with me all these years."

To transform the book - a written version of a musical play - into a screenplay, Bill Condon wanted to hew as closely as possible to the original material, which cast such a powerful spell on audiences of all ages, from all walks of life, during its original run. For decades, the rights to this property have been closely guarded by one of the stage production's producers, industry legend and DreamWorks founding principal David Geffen.

When Mark first called David Geffen, who is a longtime friend, to suggest that Bill Condon would be the ideal choice to write and to direct "Dreamgirls," the producer recalls, "David Geffen spent about fifteen minutes telling me very nicely that this movie would never happen because it was just too much of a risk to take. If it didn't work, he would feel responsible for tarnishing the legend of the show as well as the great legacy of Michael Bennett.

"I told him I completely understood and respected his position," Lawrence Mark continues. "Still, I urged him to let me know if he ever wanted to hear Bill Condon's ideas for the movie. After a beat, David Geffen invited us to lunch the next day.

"Sometime between the entrée and the dessert, Bill Condon got to talk about what his approach to the movie would be ? after which David Geffen immediately said, 'Well, it sounds like we should give this a shot.'"

The writer-director was heavily involved in pre-production on his acclaimed exploration of sexuality pioneer "Kinsey" at the time, but eighteen months later, Bill Condon's first draft of the screenplay came in, David Geffen was keen to move forward.. "David Geffen had been protective of this project for so long, and we were honored by his willingness to trust us with it," says Lawrence Mark. "I think Bill Condon has this movie in his DNA-one of the reasons he was put on this earth was to make it."

David Geffen proved to be an invaluable resource to the writer-director. "David Geffen has these great stories about the evolution of the Broadway production, including the pre-Broadway tryouts of the show in Boston," Bill Condon says. "When you see a show as an outsider, you might not be aware of the original intentions of the creators-and we took great care to be true to Michael Bennett's legacy. He played a key role in not only the Broadway show, but also our screen version."

When I First Saw You: Singing and Dancing in Dreamgirls
"When I first saw you
I said 'Oh my. Oh my, that's my dream, that's my dream.'
I needed a dream to make me strong.
You were the only reason
I had to go on."

Despite the enormous effect the original Broadway production had on Bill Condon, for the film, he wanted to both honor the R&B sound of the '60s and '70s while infusing the music itself with contemporary flavor. "Bill Condon utilises the drama of the piece as a catalyst for the music and singing," says Jamie Foxx. "There's a reason to it all, because the emotional truth of the piece takes you in that direction. Right after 'It's All Over,' BOOM, you're hit with Effie's 'And I Am Telling You.' It's not just singing for singing's sake. It's storytelling at its most raw and emotional."

In the film, as in the play before it, there are book songs and performance numbers. Though performances may often express commentary on story points or the emotions of the characters, book songs move the story forward. Music is ingrained in the characters' souls and is a powerful mode of expression for all of them. "The characters in this story relate to and through music," says Bill Condon.

Lawrence Mark says, "Because of the nature of the story, almost every number is sung either in performance or on or near a stage."

Though Bill Condon already had a trove of powerful songs to utilise, he nonetheless sought to create new songs for the film. He turned to Henry Krieger, who wrote the original music for the Broadway musical (which yielded him a Tony nomination for Best Score and a Grammy Award for Best Broadway album).

Krieger collaborated on four new songs for the "Dreamgirls" soundtrack:
"Love You I Do" - Effie's breezy love song to Curtis (performed by Jennifer Hudson);
"Listen" - a passionate song sung by Deena, who transforms from Curtis's product into an independent woman as she sings it (performed by Beyonce Knowles);
"Patience" - a song C.C. writes for James "Thunder" Early to signal his budding awareness of social change, (performed by Eddie Murphy, Keith Robinson and Anika Noni Rose); and
"Perfect World" - an upbeat confection from Teddy Campbell, a child musical sensation rising alongside The Dreams.

"Twenty-five years later, I'm getting to relive the dream," says Henry Krieger. "The show has been very faithfully kept intact and yet given its own vibration, for which I give all credit to Bill Condon's amazing screenwriting and direction, along with the collaborators who worked with the orchestrations from the original show by Harold Wheeler. It all comes out as being very organic to the piece. I love it."

Henry Krieger co-wrote "Listen" with Beyonce Knowles and other talented lyricists. The song expresses for the first time Deena's inner journey. "It's an actor's dream to have a moment in a movie like that - to have a song like that to act," says Beyonce Knowles. "It says everything that Deena needs to say, words and emotions that any woman can relate to. It was amazing working with Henry-20 years after the original, to still write something so wonderful is incredible. I hope 20 years from now, I can still write songs like 'Listen.'"

Bill Condon brought in music supervisors Randy Spendlove and Matt Sullivan, along with cutting edge R&B producers The Underdogs (aka Harvey Mason, Jr. and Damon Thomas). Says Matt Sullivan, "We stayed faithful to the original score as much as we could while updating it. Every note that Henry Krieger took down in that score was for a reason. Every chord strikes an emotion, and he knows what that emotion is. Musically, we tried to stay true to his original intent."

This unique group of collaborators spans various industries, movements and sounds, but all came together to aid Bill Condon and the cast in creating the film's unique sound. They worked with the cast for roughly four weeks of rehearsal, which was followed by four weeks of pre-recording the entire musical. During this time all saw firsthand the profound gifts of the film's performers. Matt Sullivan notes, "Eddie Murphy came in as Eddie Murphy, and you could just watch him go right into James 'Thunder' Early, right in front of your face. Pow! And this voice would come out, which was not Eddie Murphy, but this great character that he had developed."

"Hearing Beyoncé Knowles bring Deena Jones to life was just as amazing," continues the music supervisor. "It's not Beyoncé Knowles, but Deena, whose voice is not nearly as strong. She pulled back effortlessly as part of her work on the character. And Jamie Foxx is such an amazing actor with an amazing voice. The tone and feeling in his voice-that can't be faked. He brought it all into the song and blew us away within five minutes."

Henry Krieger notes that the film offers different interpretations of the original material as performed and recorded more than two decades ago, including the emotional show-stopper that brought the house down, "And I Am Telling You." "Jennifer Holliday and Jennifer Hudson bring very different things to 'And I Am Telling You,'" comments Henry Krieger. "What Ms. Jennifer Hudson does in a very vulnerable way isn't what Ms. Holliday did, and what Ms. Holliday can do in a huge, brassy way is not necessarily the same quiver of arrows that Ms. Jennifer Hudson uses. Yet both bring wonderful qualities to this property. Each cast-the Broadway and the film-bring their own artistry to the material, and both are valid in their versions."

"To meet the man who wrote all of these songs that live so deep inside of people's hearts was incredible for me," comments Jennifer Hudson. "It was coming in contact with history. He was sitting there, telling the story about playing the piano for Jennifer Holliday and we're working on the song. You can't put a price on that."

To bring a breath of contemporary movement to the trademark moves of the era depicted in 'Dreamgirls,' Bill Condon needed a choreographer who would not be too firmly grounded in one style but could move and blend freely. "We talked to Broadway choreographers and classical choreographers, looking for someone who could reference the period and the original production, but also make it contemporary," Bill Condon recalls. "The trick of the movie is that while everything is done in a period style, we want it to feel of the moment."

Fatima Robinson, who emerged from the world of hip hop, has choreographed for such acts as Outkast, Black Eyed Peas, Will Smith, Jessica Simpson, No Doubt and Prince. "Her spectacular work walks a fine line between staying true to the period and making the movement pop for today," says Bill Condon.

"Fatima Robinson incorporates several influences into the dance numbers - Gospel, Jazz, Blues, Rock," says producer Mark. "She has pulled out all the dance stops."

Fatima Robinson choreographed Curtis's song, "Steppin' to the Bad Side," for her audition, outfitting her dancers with tambourines and church fans. "Henry said that when he saw my presentation, he felt that finally someone got the Gospel in the song that no one had ever really picked up on before," Fatima Robinson notes.

"I loved the choreography for 'One Night Only,'" comments Beyoncé Knowles. "It was so fun. It felt like something they would have been doing at Studio 54. I still have glitter in my house from that number!"

Beyonce Knowles, who once worked with Fatima Robinson as a teenager, notes that the choreographer is "always doing something new. She's very knowledgeable about the '60s and '70s-we watched a lot of old Motown performances, which was helpful. And Fatima Robinson was great at making each dance number distinctive and different, which had to be difficult."

Fatima Robinson investigated dance footage and tapes of performers such as Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and James Brown, and incorporated some of the "vintage" steps fused with her own modern choreography, to "put a little extra flavor on it, keeping it still true to the time but also making it timeless," she describes.

Eddie Murphy came to the table with his own array of moves gleaned from watching hours of performances of the men who, like James "Thunder" Early, brought a degree of sexuality to the vanilla '50s and '60s. "We shot some footage of Eddie, and then worked on certain things that he could do along with the girls," Fatima Robinson describes, "moves they could do together, and built on that."

The performers in "Dreamgirls" brought every ounce of their passion to the fore as they shot the sequences in which they performed these memorable songs. Though the powerful pre-recorded vocal tracks were played back at full volume during filming, every live singing voice could still clearly be heard over the playback blaring from the onstage monitors. "There isn't a person young or old who doesn't connect in some way to this music," says Spendlove.

Cadillac Car: Production Designer John Myhre Crafts A Dreamgirls Universe
"Don't care where I'm bound.
Got these four wheels
Spinnin' round.
Me and my two-toned Caddy
Gonna blow this town."

Part 2