Broadway invaded the Cannes Film Festival on Friday with a preview of the movie musical “Dreamgirls,” with stars Jamie Foxx and Beyonce Knowles on hand to help show off scenes from the stage adaptation.
Director Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters”) introduced about 20 minutes of footage to reporters and movie professionals, including rollicking musical numbers from the saga of a 1960s girl group that rises to superstardom.
Condon said he initially was uncomfortable with the idea of unveiling footage at the prestigious film festival until he recalled the Cannes tradition of showcasing great musicals.
“We in making this movie, all of us inspired to be part of the tradition of classic Hollywood musicals, Stanley Donen movies, George Cukor movies and Vincente Minnelli movies, and those movies were first taken seriously in this country and at this festival,” Condon said. “So suddenly it did feel right.”
“Dreamgirls” features Foxx as a car salesman who worms his way into the Detroit music scene and becomes an impresario, orchestrating the crossover of black music to white mainstream culture.
Eddie Murphy co-stars as a flashy R&B singer who Condon describes as a cross between James Brown and Jackie Wilson. Knowles, “American Idol” finalist Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose play the Dreamettes, who start out as Murphy’s backup singers but become a sensation on their own under Foxx’s management.
Musicals have been hit and miss in the movies, but Condon managed to mix the excitement of the song and dance with the emotion of the story, Foxx said.
“He connected the drama to the music, so that when you are captivated by what Beyonce or Jennifer are going through, all of a sudden they open their mouths and they knock your wig off,” Foxx said.
An Academy Award winner for “Ray,” in which he lip-synched to Ray Charles’ vocals, Foxx gets to sing on his own this time. With the movie debuting in December, the heart of Hollywood awards season, Foxx was not shy about speculating on the film’s prospects.
“They talk about the Oscar curse,” Foxx said. “I don’t feel it now.”