#ICastIt Julia Flores Casts the Heart of ‘Dreamgirls’

Photo Source: Michael LaMont

When casting director Julia Flores starts casting a project, she says her priority is always finding the heart of the show. Flores was looking for strong singers who could emotionally connect with the vocally challenging “Dreamgirls.” Fresh from La Mirada Theatre for Performing Arts, “Dreamgirls” runs May 6-8 at the Valley Performing Arts Center before continuing on to Tokyo. The leading role of Effie is at the center of the drama in the musical about a 1960s girls singing group’s rise to fame. “People immediately think of the vocals for Effie, but for me it was the heart.” Flores was looking for someone who could access the passion, drive, vulnerability, and humor that Effie possesses. “And on top of that she has to have vocals from God,” says Flores. She knew Moya Angela was the choice for Effie when the creative team all suggested her virtually simultaneously. When Angela came in to audition, Flores says “the second she opened her mouth I was able to breathe again.” And when Angela read the sides, Flores says she knew that was it. “She was a walking, pulsing heart. Moya she is literally a gift from God to me. She is my heroine. She’s incredible. She’s fearless.”

Ensuring that actors have the stamina for the vocal demands of the roles can be a challenge, but Flores says that she relied on her years of experience and that of director Robert Longbottom and musical director Dennis Castellano to determine which actors would be able to sustain the vocally challenging roles. “It’s all about listening. All of us just listen to see where they’re sitting in their vocals and then as far as their performances go, who they are with these people. It’s about bravery, it’s about fearlessness.” The creative team saw the principal actors multiple times throughout the process and wanted to see a gradual progression with the characters they were portraying. “All these people that we ended up casting, even at the get-go they had a really innate instinct for these people, for these characters, and I always say I like to cast artists who understand the heart of the character…if there’s no heart to it, if people aren’t real, the rest of it is just smoke and mirrors.” The progression was particularly evident in Scott People who Flores enjoyed watching grow into the role of Curtis. “He’s got gorgeous vocals… every time we saw him, he got better and better and better and so it was exciting to see him in the process.”

Flores notes that the ensemble roles were physically demanding: “I knew it was going to be strenuous on them, just because of the demands of it, because this is unlike any other ensemble,” she says. They dance onstage with real instruments, not props and have many quick costume changes. “Usually when you’re in the ensemble you’ve got one or two tracks…It was insane, because you’ve got one or two or three or four different tracks and so that’s huge costume changes, that’s quick back and forth.” Flores was pleased with the talented and versatile ensemble she was able to find. “If only you knew the hoops and semantics and the challenges that our ensemble is going through on a nightly basis, they are really the unsung heroes of the show.”

For tickets call (818) 677-3000 or click here.

Pictured: Moya Angela, Jasmin Richardson, Brittney Johnson and David LaMarr in "Dreamgirls"

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