Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Moya Angela: Dreamgirls’ ‘Effie’ Speaks Exclusively to EURweb

Moya Angela, Jasmin Richardson, Brittney Johnson and David LaMarr star in the LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS & McCOY RIGBY ENTERTAINMENT production of "DREAMGIRLS" - Directed and Choreographed by Robert Longbottom. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont
Moya Angela, Jasmin Richardson, Brittney Johnson and David LaMarr star in the LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS & McCOY RIGBY ENTERTAINMENT production of “DREAMGIRLS” – Directed and Choreographed by Robert Longbottom. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Lamont

*Who doesn’t love the story of Dreamgirls? Every little black girl who ever wanted to be part of a singing group can relate to the journey of a group of girls jumping through whatever hoops they had to, in order to claim a spot in the spotlight.

And Dreamgirls brings this ‘dream’ to life on a big scale.

Full of onstage joy and backstage drama, the production tells the story of an up-and-coming 1960s girl-singing group, and the triumphs and tribulations that come with fame and fortune. With music by Academy Award nominee Henry Krieger and book and lyrics by Tony and Grammy Award winner Tom Eyen, Dreamgirls features the unforgettable hits: “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” “One Night Only” and “Listen.”

“One of the largest requests from our audience is for full scale musical theatre at Valley Performing Arts Center and I am thrilled to be inaugurating our musical theatre presentations by working with McCoy Rigby Entertainment for the first time to bring their new production of Dreamgirls to our theatre.  I can’t wait to hear these large powerful voices fill our Great Hall,” said Thor Steingraber, Executive Director of Valley Performing Arts Center.  “A musical about show business is the perfect way to commence bringing Broadway musicals to the Valley.”

And when we got a chance to speak with Moya Angela, who is returning to play ‘Effie White’ — the production’s most memorable character — in the role Jennifer Holliday made famous in its 1981 debut on Broadway (she was only 20-years-old when she did the play!) we jumped on it!

Moya Angela as 'Effie' in Dreamgirls
Moya Angela as ‘Effie’ in Dreamgirls

Angela is no stranger to this character. In 2009, she performed the role to critical acclaim and has been in several productions since. Now she comes to the beautiful VPAC in Northridge (on the campus of Cal State Northridge) for an exclusive 4-performance run beginning on Friday, May 6 through Sunday, May 8.

I always explain to people that when I first played this role I was Act I Effie. And now I’m Act II Effie. –Moya Angela

Below is an excerpt of Moya Angela’s interview with EURweb Senior Editor, DeBorah B. Pryor.

DBP: I always wondered if the writers of the Dreamgirls story intended for the Deena character to be the star, and if they were surprised that the real star of the play turned out to be Effie. As an actor now playing this character of Effie, how do you feel about that, are you surprised?

MA: No, I think that when they first wrote the story they had to tell it like this because that’s what happened in real life. When you get in shows or when you try to manuever a group in a certain way, you try to change the dynamic of it, I mean, naturally other people will shine. Even for groups in general you may be OK with singing backup but then you’re like, ‘OK, I want more for myself. I think that when this musical was written they knew that there was going to be multiple stars. And naturally, only one gets the forefront, you know, with the recognition that people are looking for.

DBP: Is ‘Effie’ a role you’ve longed to play for a long time?

MA: I think naturally it was like one of my top three. In fact I hadn’t even thought about it, I just knew. It wasn’t even a thought – like, ‘oh yeah, that’s one of the three.’ And so when it came around…it’s like, everything happens so fast when you go through these processes. Like it can be really slow; where you hurry up and wait, or its like you don’t even have time to take a drink of water. But I’ve always wanted to play this role and (laughs) it never gets easier.

DBP: Now before I jump on that last remark, and ask you to explain it further, let me ask you this. What was it about the Effie character that made you want to play her?

MA: I’m classically trained and I always had a big voice. And I think…narrowing it down, there’s not millions and millions of leading ladies on the ‘Great White Way’. There is just a select few so you’re like “one of these days I want to play that.” They either come from The Wiz or they come from Dreamgirls or even The Lion King, so it was just normal I could’ve said one of my top three roles was to play Millie in “Thoughouly Modern Mille” but I mean, what are the chances that that’s going to really get to happen? …It just made sense. Big voice. Big attitude. Effie. Put that on your top three and just let the Universe allow it to come back in your life.

No it’s not easy. And I don’t think I chose it because I thought it would be’ easy-breezy.’ I like to be challenged as an artist, and I put that on my list because I only know how much I can do by what I do.

DBP: Other than the whole big voice thing and “that song” (And I Am Telling You) was there something in the actual character of Effie that made you feel connected to the part? Did you connect with her story at all, or was it basically the music?

Well when I was younger it was the music because I didn’t know anything. But then when I first played the role 7 years ago, I actually felt like I was going through exactly what she went through, relationship-wise…so it wasn’t very hard for me to take my own personal experience and use it through the character.

I always explain to people that when I first played this role I was Act I Effie. And now I’m Act II Effie.

DBP: Explain please.

MA: When I first played the role I had my heart broken. I was young…and still making really ridiculous decisions in relationships and I was just always angry and now, I’m just like, I’ve experienced more. I’ve been through a lot more. I’m more patient with myself and people and with my artistry in general. And I’m more confident.

I even sing it differently now. Before, it was harder for me to sing because I was just trying to be superwoman and get everything perfect. But now its like, I realize I don’t have to sing everything ‘triple forte’ and I can color the notes differently because of what I’ve been through and make better choices because I’m older.

You can’t act Effie, you have to play Effie. And I learned that too. Like, you have actors who are acting onstage, and then you have actors who are actually the characters onstage…It’s not the kind of character you can just act. I can’t go through the motions and make you guys think that I’m going there. I have to ‘go there’ or else it doesn’t work.

DBP: And it doesn’t fulfill you, as an actor.

Absolutely. And so I literally have to find my own angle.

Stay tuned for a REVIEW of the VPAC show and more of this interview, where Moya Angela talks about her meeting with Jennifer Holliday (at lunch) and what ‘the original Effie’ had to say about her performance!

See how to GET YOUR TICKETS FOR THE SHOW directly below.

Jennifer Holliday and Moya Angela meet.
Jennifer Holliday and Moya Angela meet.

Tickets for Dreamgirls May 6 to 8 at Valley Performing Arts Center can be purchased by visiting or calling (818) 677-3000.  Valley Performing Arts Center is located on the campus of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), 18111 Nordhoff Street Northridge, CA 91330-8448, at the corner of Nordhoff and Lindley. 



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