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Act II: 1970s By 1972, Deena Jones and the Dreams have become the most successful girl group in the country ("Act II Opening"). In contrast to Effie's struggling return to her musical career, Deena wants to stop singing and become an actress.Deena informs Curtis of her careers plans during a Vogue photo shoot ("One More Picture Please"), but Curtis refuses to let her go ("When I First Saw You").In 1967, the group – now known as "Deena Jones and the Dreams" – is set to make their Las Vegas début.However, when Jimmy stops by to visit the girls ("Drivin' Down the Strip"), he learns from the others that Effie has been missing shows because of illness (it is later revealed that she was pregnant with Curtis's child). Curtis shows little interest in updating or revitalizing Jimmy's act because of Curtis's preoccupation with Deena and because of Jimmy's habit of sneaking funk numbers into his repertoire of pop-friendly songs.Curtis declares to Deena, "I'm going to make you the most famous woman who's ever lived," as the slighted Effie asks "What about me? Over the next few years, the Dreams become a mainstream success with hit singles ("Heavy").As Deena is increasingly feted as a star, Effie becomes temperamental and unpredictable. Lorrell attempts to keep peace between her bandmates, but the task seems difficult.

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While waiting backstage to go on, Jimmy finds himself in another argument with Lorrell as to the nature of their relationship and when, or if, Jimmy will tell his wife about their affair ("Ain't No Party").

Lorrell is in tears as Jimmy takes to the stage to perform, and turns to Deena for support.

Based on the show business aspirations and successes of R&B acts such as The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and others, the musical follows the story of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called "The Dreams", who become music superstars.

Staged with a mostly African-American cast and originally starring Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, Ben Harney, Cleavant Derricks, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Obba Babatundé, the musical opened on December 20, 1981, at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway.