When I think of “The First Wives Club” I picture the last scene: Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler dressed in white singing “You Don’t Own Me” as they strut down the cobblestone streets of SoHo. But come this Friday, when the musical version of the hit book and film premieres at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater, Elyse, the self-absorbed blonde actress, will be transformed into a glamorous black woman. Yes, our girl, Sheryl Lee Ralph (the original Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls” aka “Moesha’s” stepmother Dee) will be a sister in mid-life crisis after her husband leaves her for a younger woman.
The Los Angeles Times reports that director Francesca Zambella and writer Rupert Holmes wanted to make the story more contemporary and integrating the cast seemed like a natural choice. Ralph wasn’t the original choice for the role, Tony Award winner Adriane Lennox was—FYI, she played the mother in the Broadway version of “Doubt—but she had to drop out of the show for health reasons. They also brought in reunited the notable team of Holland-Dozier-Holland to write the music. All these elements are important because producers are hoping to bring this puppy to Broadway for a nice long run. They may have a good idea since women of a certain age make up a large percentage of the theater going public. And Sheryl (she’s the kind of woman you want to call by her first name) is such a down-to-earth sister many of us would come out to root her on.
Sheryl, who has spent almost as much time on raising AIDS awareness as she has acting, had to postpone her one woman show “Sometimes I Cry: The Lives, Loves and Losses of Women With AIDS” to take on this role. But she believes the timing couldn’t be better (even if its is 28 years after “Dreamgirls”).
“Girl, it was like rolling a big snowball uphill, and then suddenly you turn around and it’s rolling downhill,” she says. “In the first 10 days, I lost five pounds. If I were 22 and doing ‘Dreamgirls’ — bring it on! But that was a long time ago.”
“I say it’s the Michelle Obama effect; the black girl is coming into her own,” she says. “I’m the smartest of the group, I’m the wealthiest of the group, and I was the one who graduated at the top of her class.”
We’ll we know that Sheryl doesn’t have a problem speaking her mind, LOL. I’m really hoping this musical makes it to Broadway because she’ll get to do lots and lots of interviews. She is definitely dramatic with a capital “D” so the stage is the natural place for her (otherwise she’s got to dim that her bright wattage). Here’s to hoping that the company knocks ‘em dead in San Diego and they’re headed for the East Coast soon.
Check out this vintage clip of Sheryl, Loretta and Terry Burrell singing on The Merv Griffin Show and then try to imagine Sheryl in this clip from “The First Wives Club”:Read Also