'Dreamgirls' come true for Condon


When it comes to making movie musicals, the biggest challenge is weaving the film's songs with the story line. Also important is creating ample opportunities for those tunes to be performed, "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon said Tuesday during a panel session held as part of The Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film & TV Music conference at the Beverly Hilton.

Calling the creation of "Dreamgirls" a dream come true, Condon said the conceptual framework of a movie musical starts with a commitment to do justice to a good musical score with authenticity and by hiring the right performers with the right talents for the roles.

"The trick of adapting a score for film is to send it both back and forward -- to make the songs sound more authentic for the time but never betray the period they came from," said Condon, adding that the film tracks musical changes spanning from 1962-1975. "This was also about the performers. You have to get people with major vocal talent. No one could be faking it."

Condon was joined on the panel by Randy Spendlove, musical supervisor on "Dreamgirls"; Henry Krieger, composer-songwriter for the film; and producers-songwriters Harvey Mason Jr. and Damon Thomas, known as the Underdogs. Condon's film adaptation of the 1980s Broadway musical, which stars Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy, is set to bow Dec. 15.

Spendlove relayed stories about how the film's songs were scrutinized line by line -- the song "Listen" alone underwent 35 renditions before the final one was selected for the film. Mason said his biggest challenge -- besides the number of songs he and Thomas had to produce -- was overcoming the pressure to please all those involved.

"We would sit and talk about music more than I ever have in my life," Mason said. "It was about paying the ultimate respect to the material while re-inventing them."

While Krieger described the collaboration as a "dream come true" for him, he also said the feature film was made at the perfect time, even though it is hitting theaters some 25 years after the show opened on Broadway.

"For me, we got this perfect cast -- it's just eerie how the stars aligned," Condon said.