The main theme of the musical is about the rollercoaster nature of showbiz, especially that of pop music. Based on the 1960’s and 70’s rise of this genre, the musical attempts to capture all the drama and encumbrance that celebrity brings. It tries to capture the paradox of how high fame can create high-stakes for those involved. In this heady atmosphere, ego clashes, fluctuations of fortunes and changing trends take a toll on the players involved. As a result there is manifestation of greed, egoism, mistrust, jealousy and insecurity aplenty. Yet, there are also expressions of such admirable human traits as grit, determination, resoluteness and worthy ambition.
One of the main points of conflict in the musical is the one between Marty and Curtis as they both claim patronage of Dreamettes. The two men who played a key role in the rising stardom of the all-female pop band act possessively toward their protégés. They both believe that they have earned some unarticulated right over the members of the Dreamettes. This leads to the instances of intimacy between Curtis and Effie, and also between Jimmy and Lorrell. The rising tension between the two men is eventually dissipated when Marty resigns as Jimmy’s manager, which paves way for Curtis to take over.
One of the poignant musical numbers is the one sung by Effie titled ‘And I am Telling You I’m Not Going’. It is addressed mainly toward Curtis, but more generally toward the group and the world-at-large. After having been expelled from the group Deena Jones and the Dreams, the heart-broken Effie is not one to take it lying down. She shows that she is a resolute person willing to do whatever it takes to earn her place back in the group. Through the song we learn how Effie is strong-willed and has a fighting spirit. But eventually, she is unable to overpower the forces of cut-throat competition prevalent in the world of showbiz.
‘Cadillac Car’, which appears more than once during the musical is a plot driven number. Being the first song of the all-black female pop group (Dreamettes), the image of the Cadillac represents their newfound liberty and success. Instead of setting out in detail the group’s rise from obscurity to popularity the image and the lyrics are used symbolically. The exhilarating fast ride in a Cadillac is equated with the overnight fame of the rookie pop band, thus moving and enlivening the plot.
There is more than one contender for the lead character in the musical. These include Marty, Jimmy, Effie, Deena, etc. Equally, none of these characters are out and out heroic. They all have shades of grey in their personality and behavioral makeup. Effie, for example, is constantly pitted against unfavorable circumstances. The difficult situations she finds herself in are either created through the political atmosphere of showbiz or due to interpersonal reasons. Effie tries to fight against perceived injustice meted to her. In her showbiz career she was unceremoniously omitted from the pop-group. But through the sheer tenacity, she fights a long protracted battle to get her career on track. She finally succeeds and the musical ends with her rejoining the band. Likewise, in the personal domain, she struggles through the strained relationship with Curtis – whose daughter she bears and rears. Not only does Effie satisfactorily fulfill the responsibility of a single parent but she also meets her professional objectives ultimately.