Lillias White
Lillias White
If you're like me, you have trouble planning what you're going to be doing two hours from now, let alone two months; but you'd better get moving if you don't want to miss The Actors' Fund of America's all-star, 20th anniversary concert presentation of the Henry Krieger-Tom Eyen musical Dreamgirls, to be performed "One Night Only" on September 24 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. According to Catherine Cooke of the Fund, ticket sales are "absolutely unprecedented. We have close to a half-million dollars in the bank from single ticket sales alone. Everything is already gone except for the top-price seats in the orchestra."

Norm Lewis (as Curtis Taylor, Jr.), Darius de Haas (as C.C. White), and Billy Porter (as James Thunder Early) are the lucky guys who'll be appearing in the concert opposite Tony Award winners Heather Headley as Lorell Robinson, Audra MacDonald as Deena Jones (i.e., Diana Ross), and Lillias White as Effie White. We are also promised celebrity cameos in some of the show's smaller roles, though no one is naming names just yet.

The project is the brainchild of its producer/conductor/musical director, Seth Rudetsky, who told me that he'd like to set the record straight in regard to Jennifer Holliday's non-participation in the concert. Holliday, of course, created the role of Effie in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls; Lillias White made the part her own in a later tour of the musical which found its way back to Broadway. "I did a fundraiser a few years ago for the Gay and Lesbian Synagogue," Rudetsky explains. "We were going to do some numbers from Dreamgirls, but my Effie dropped out at the last minute. I asked Lillias if she could do it, and she said yes. She came over right after her dress rehearsal for The Life, in full makeup, and she sang the Effie songs for me. I told her, 'You are amazing! One of these days, I'm going to do the whole show for you with a full orchestra.' I kept pitching the idea around, and finally The Actors' Fund said yes. But it was never thought of as a reunion concert, so I'm sorry that Jennifer has turned it into 'Why wasn't I asked?' It's nothing against her; I just worked with Jennifer in her Bessie Smith show, and I'd love to see a Dreamgirls reunion with the original cast also. But I had it in mind from the beginning to do this for Lillias, because she helped me out when I really needed her."

Tickets for the Actors' Fund benefit are still available at $500, $1,000, and $2,500. For reservations, phone 212-221-7300, ext. 133, or e-mail ccooke@actorsfund.org.