Nearly 10 months before the movie's December premiere, the creative team behind the musical "Dreamgirls" scrambled to control the movie's buzz. While tasty finger food, booze and costumed stars have sway over word of mouth, they can do little to bend the will of Mother Nature.
In the midst of what Los Angelinos coyly refer to as a winter storm (chilly drizzle), the Paramount/Dreamworks co-production held a press event on Monday (Feb. 28). To prevent media melting, reporters were shuttled the 100 yards from a downtown parking lot to Los Angeles' Orpheum Theater, where production has been ongoing. A large black tent was lined, from wall to wall, with presentation on the costuming, production design and choreography that producers hope will allow "Dreamgirls" to become the next "Chicago," rather than the next "Rent."
After some enthusiastic opening remarks from director Bill Condon, writers slipped from the tent into the Orpheum's back door, with umbrellas and slickers increasing the typical confusion of wedging several hundred civilians in and around a film crew and working set. Human props in place, the cameras rolled as the "Dreamgirls" stars Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce Knowles and Anika Noni Rose hit the stage in sparkling red dressing singing "Steppin' To the Bad Side" accompanied by 11 tuxedo-clad background dancers and a stand-in taking the place of absent cast member Eddie Murphy. It was flashy. It was energetic. It lasted around two minutes. The music stopped and the crowd burst into applause, waiting to see what would come next.
Jamie Foxx, another "Dreamgirls" lead, came out and said a few pleasant words.
"Bill Condon, the director, is recreating magic," Foxx noted of the Tony-winning Broadway hit loosely based on The Supremes.
Foxx added, "To see Eddie Murphy actually excited about something is amazing."
With that, though, the set visit was over and writers were taken back to the tent, where alcohol continued to flow, as the stars made fleeting appearances. Knowles and her bodyguard, the largest man in Hollywood, appeared to enter, take a dozen steps in and then retreat. Foxx stuck around a bit longer.
"I'll tell you this, that the production is midway though and you're going to enjoy it," Foxx told the throng of reporters ignoring the clearly written prohibitions against recording devices. "It's gonna knock you way over."
Also lingering was Rose, a Tony winner who offered writers hints on how to convince men to come for the song and dance.
"We're sexy," she noted. "We got some sexy things going on with the 'Dreamgirls.' I think the surprising thing is how easily the drama can move from stage to screen. It doesn't look too big, I don't think."
Although Foxx made reference to sticking around and partying until the early morning, by 8:30 p.m., reporters were standing mostly along in the tent pondering some important "Dreamgirls"-based questions.
Question: Can the bartenders make a mojito?
Question: What's the secret ingredient in those little carrot cakes?
Answer: All signs pointed to either heroin or magic.
The "Dreamgirls" crew must hope that after Monday's soaked soiree, the press is hooked on the music more than merely on the cream cheese frosting.