As the theatre production of Dreamgirls prepares for its closing show, one member – Durone Stokes –commemorates this hit musical by re-inventing the song ‘Family’. During act one C.C White sings this solo to his sister Effie to remind her that she is not alone: whatever problems she encounters, the “family” will face them together. This is a song about personal and collective development; it is about reaching new heights with the help of others and the importance of compromise.
In the musical this song is sparked by a conflict: the band are finally given a chance to perform on their own, however the head singer Effie would have to switch to being a backup singer instead. Effie is heartbroken because although her voice has more character and depth she is being side-lined for Deena, someone chosen for her looks and soft voice. She is being told to give up her own dreams as lead singer for the good of the band- an individual sacrifice for the sake of a collective. This argument is quickly resolved by C.C reasoning ‘no matter what we are we are a family’, ‘this dream is for all of us, this one can be real’. Effie understands that for the group to develop and make a name she must suffer this blow. However, this does not stop her from feeling betrayed and resentful towards the group.
Maintaining the song’s gospel roots, Stokes’ re-inspired version of ‘Family’ brings in strings and percussion to breathe fresh air into the song and give it a modern twist. Between the light melody and the unison texture, ‘Family’ is full of musical depth. What particularly stands out when listening to this song is the smoothness of Stokes voice. His voice traps you instantaneously, making it impossible for you to drag your attention away, or let any other sound flood into your ears. There is something about his mesmerising, yet intensely personal voice and the song’s message that causes you to question your own actions – are you focused on yourself or the collective? Are you being the best person you could be? This is further focalised by the repetition of melody and rhythm which cause the listener to focus on the message of the song (and which also makes the song impossible to get out of your head!).
The simile ‘We are a family, like a giant tree. Branching out toward the sky’, perfectly captures the essence of the song. The trio have grown together and are one being, their roots are entwined- no matter where life takes them they will always be connected as they stem from the same bulb. They are reaching for the stars with everything they have but without the correct nurturing they will never succeed: if sacrifices are not made then failure is inevitable. A key lesson this song – no, this whole show – teaches the audience, is the importance of sticking together. Whilst this song preaches the need for cooperation, the show teaches us the importance of loyalty. No matter what we go though, those that truly care about us will always have our backs even if it takes EIGHT YEARS.
For those of you who are yet to see Dreamgirls I am sorry to inform you that its final performance was on the 12th January 2019. But you should absolutely check out Durone Stokes re- inspired solo ‘Family’ and if that isn’t enough for you, there is always the 2006 Dreamworks production staring Beyonce.
Make sure to keep an eye out for Stokes’ next move, who knows what the future holds for this star?