The original Dreamgirls Broadway play, which opened in 1981 at the Imperial Theatre in New York, was inspired by the success of girl groups like the Supremes and the Shirelles. Though the association is not explicit, the play’s story shares many similarities with the story of the Supremes, especially, a trailblazing pop music group as black women, and some of the first black musicians to gain a coveted spot on the Ed Sullivan Show.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Motown music was becoming more popular, and there were plenty of baby boomer teens excited about new kinds of music. Young girls tended to get together to harmonize, and there was a boom of young women entering the Motown and pop music scene. These girl groups seemed to have an easier time crossing over from the “black” R&B music charts to the “white” pop charts during segregated times.
The musical won several Tonys, among other awards, and was revived several times. In 2006, it was made into a film starring Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce Knowles, and the show is now on the stage in London starring Amber Riley, known for her role in TV’s Glee.