With Dreamgirls, fresh new talent by the truckload has taken over the Rotorua Musical Theatre's Casa Blanca stage both treading its boards and tucked away behind the backdrops.

The impact these newbies made on opening night was pure wow factor.

First time director Bobby Mihi Howard has nurtured a team drawn from this city's crucible of performing arts, in particular Māori performing arts, kapa haka and hip-hop included. She's cleverly melding them into a cast that plays with the intensity of Pohutu erupting at full throttle.

Dreamgirls could have been written for this mostly brown faced crew. Before there's an outrageous cry "that comment's racist", ponder on this cracker one-liner from the show. "Know the true meaning of R&B?" Answer: Rhythm and black. Enough said.


This timeless plot's centred around a girl group of the Swinging Sixties and their rise from rejects in a rigged talent quest to the top of the pops and television stardom.

But all is not as it seems. The girls fall out, their original 'star' Effie is relegated to a backing role then unceremoniously dumped, all at the whim of the men who manage and manipulate them. Predictably the girls fall in and out of love with these reprobates.

There were many Motown groups of this ilk, think the Supremes, Temptations, et al.

Theatre novice Atutahi Potaka-Dewes as Effie is a soul sister to the depths of her musical soul. Her male opposite number Huia Clayton playing vocalist Jimmy, has an on-stage presence and mannerisms that bear an uncanny resemblance to "our Howie" (Sir Howard Morrison), founding father of Māori show bands. Clayton is another for whom Dreamgirls is his musical debut.

Desian Robb, playing Curtis, is a singer, songwriter, recording artist and music producer in his own right who's already performed with RMT.

With the exception of Tiffany Wilkinson (Lorrell) who has previous Tauranga theatre experience, the remaining bill-topping players Seany Gage (Deena), Ashleigh Areli (Michelle), Frank Baker (CC) and Ronald Deane (Marty) are newly-minted homegrown stars in the making.

Like director Mihi Howard, choreographer Janaye Biddle-Kite and vocal director Laura Falconer are first timers not merely making this show happen but taking it to must-see status.

Dreamgirls is the polar opposite of RMT's last and much bigger show Mary Poppins, proving variety is what keeps it spinning on its axis. With the addition of so many new faces and first-class voices it will spin all the faster.