TWC width=

Becoming A Dreamgirl: Houston’s Margaret Hoffman Discusses Her Role with DSN

  • Sharebar

By Lorrie Irby Jackson

By now, unless you just arrived back from the planet Mars, everyone knows the premise of Dreamgirls: a trio of girls from the projects becoming women as they struggle with glitz, glamour, ambition and adversity on their way to the top. The show originated on Broadway in 1981 and hit the big screen for a modernized adaptation in 2005.

For the audience, it’s a seamlessly produced two-hour journey into a legendary tale of show biz, but for the players, it’s the result of a lot of sweat, study and sacrifice. Margaret Hoffman -a Houston born Sam Houston State University grad- never imagined that she would understudy for the role of Deena Jones. Hoffman recently earned her B.F.A. in Musical Theatre and performed in several local productions in her hometown, but now appears every evening as the fourth Dream, Michelle Morris. While on break from the demanding role, Ms. Hoffman opens up about what goes on behind the scenes, which cast endorsed the current run of the legendary show and what new roles she hopes are in her near future.

LORRIE IRBY JACKSON- Dreamgirls is such an enduring and beloved stage show: tell me, was it intimidating for you to step into it?

Margaret Hoffman

MARGARET HOFFMAN- Of course! When you think about the original production, with Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Holiday, Loretta Devine, and then the movie with Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx, it was really intimidating, because all of those people who played those roles were just phenomenal.

We have 6 weeks of rehearsal in New York with directors and choreographers they make sure we have it all down. When we opened up in Nov. at the Apollo, it felt good. As you continue to tour with this production, it becomes a part of you; you become a character and learn to live in the moment. You don’t even think twice about it, you just perform. All the rehearsals we had helped up to grow into the character.

LIJ-Have you done this type of thing before? What’s it like to be an understudy for this particular show?

MH- This is my first professional gig, being an understudy and being on-call for the role of Deena.  You don’t get to practice, you only get to rehearse once a week if that, and you don’t get to practice in costume, which is difficult. She (Deena) has 19 wigs, 21 costumes; some of the costume changes are as short as 10 seconds. Some of the costume changes involve jewelry, and you can’t practice that.

LIJ- Whoa!

MH- (laughing) We have a lot of people helping us, people just snatching stuff, helping you to put it on, someone handing you water, it’s kind of like a dance in a way. You don’t have as much rehearsal with a live audience, you don’t get to practice with the cast you perform with, you’ve just got close your eyes, take a deep breath and do what you can. It’s not always perfect, and for me, that was something to get used to because I’m such a perfectionist. I like for my work to be polished and clean, and the more often you get to perform, the better and better you get.

Everyone’s depending on you, because if you can’t perform your role, the show can’t go on. I don’t think anything can properly prepare you for the rush of performing it live. It’s a rush, a huge challenge, and it’s a confidence booster, because I think ‘wow, I did it!’

LIJ-  When have you ever had to perform as Deena as opposed to Michelle?

MH-  The last time I went on as Deena (replacing Syesha Mercado) was when we were in Baltimore, and that was nearly 7 months ago (in Dec.), and once while here in Dallas, I was called upon and only had a couple of hours to get ready, so you get the best you can to get through the show and everyone’s appreciative.

LIJ-   Is there any drama backstage, like flying wigs, fights with stilettos, stuff like that?

MH- (cracks up) I can’t speak for any other cast, but that’s not us. For the most part, we’re pretty normal. It is like a big family.  When we opened in New York, it was different than while performing on the road, because you have your own life outside of theatre.  You can go home to your friends and family.  We all stay at the same hotel, we work the show 8 times a week, our only off days are Sundays and Mondays, and on Mondays, we’re at the airport traveling to the next city. You see the same people over and over again, so they do become like your brother and sister.

You fight, you have your disagreements, you see each other every single day, so you smooth over your difference and you move on. At the end of the day, we all support each other. If there’s a costume malfunction, or if the jewelry falls off, someone’s there to help. We’ve all bonded and become very close.

LIJ-What was it like to audition for the part?

MH- I found about the audition, I submitted my headshot and resume via e-mail to the casting agency, they were the ones who decided who I would audition. I was so happy for the opportunity, I had never understudied before and didn’t know what I was getting myself in for. But I figured with hard work, I could do whatever they put in front of me.

LIJ- What did it take for you to give life to what many would perceive as a minor role?

MH- Michelle only has 5 lines in the show, but  it is a pivotal role, because she’s the one that tells CC to get back to Effie and help her become the star that she always was. I had to find her voice and create this character without much of a story to go off of, and I tried to find that through the dancing, which isn’t my first talent, but I worked my butt off until it was 2nd nature. I found my own style and just evolved into a confident air. Hopefully, the audience sees that kind side of Michelle and won’t feel negatively about her.

LIJ- Is any improvisation allowed, or do you all do it verbatim?

MH- The writer has a certain rhythm, and that sets the pace for the show and keeps the momentum and balance for the show. When you start to play with that, it messes things up. Our director was very, very adamant that we stick to the script, and the beautiful part about being part of a well-written show is that you don’t have to improvise. Even the lines that Chester Gregory performs as James “Thunder” Early as the comic relief, they’re all written for him.

LIJ- Have you heard from anyone from either the original Broadway cast or the movie cast of Dreamgirls?

MH- The original cast (from Broadway) I got to meet them in California, as for the movie cast, we haven’t heard from them yet.  But meeting the originators of these legendary characters, that was enough for me!

LIJ-I can imagine! What’s next for you once the run ends, Ms. Hoffman? And what do you hope the audience takes from the play?

MH-  I hope to inspire someone to do what they love and to follow their own dreams. I was in college when I saw my first musical (Wicked) in Houston, and I just decided that I wasn’t going to be a pharmacist and that I wasn’t going to join the choir. I was in my 2nd year of college trying to figure out what I was doing with my life. I remember it was so beautiful and that it inspired me to do what I loved, which was theatre and music. That was about 4 years ago and now here I am, I never thought I would be in a production this big and making a living as an actress, and it all came from seeing that show.

We have so much fun onstage, it’s such an honor and a blessing to do what we do and I hope that our enthusiasm reaches the audience. More than anything, I hope they love the show.

As for me, I don’t have an agent yet, but I’ve gotten phone calls from people that want me to do reading for scripts. Touring is very hard, to understudy a major role and carry it out tests your strength and drive, but I’m glad to do it. Hopefully it’s preparing me for whatever is coming my way in the future. I’d love to do a sitcom or children’s theatre; I’m just open to whatever opportunities open themselves up to me.

Dallas Summer Musicals presents Tony-Award winning stage play Dreamgirls at Fair Park Music Hall from July 1st through July 18th.  Stage photos by Joan Marcus.

Advertisement
Average Joe
View rental listings for Dallas TX Apartments and surrounding areas: UMoveFree Partner Dallas TX Apartments

Dallas Apartments

Log in / Advanced NewsPaper by Gabfire Themes