Jennifer Hudson welcomed Sheryl Lee Ralph to the set of her new, namesake talk show on Tuesday (Sept. 20) to look back on the Tony nominee’s role as the original Deena Jones in Dreamgirls.
After revealing she was born the same year Dreamgirls first opened on Broadway in 1981, Hudson — who won a best supporting actress Oscar as Effie White in the 2006 film adaptation of the hit musical — asked the recent Emmy winner what she remembered about her audition for the show.
“I’ll never forget my audition,” Ralph told the newly-minted EGOT winner. “Because I remember that day walking into — it was 890 Broadway, Michael Bennett’s big theater — and I walked in there. And I was walking behind Loretta Devine, Because Loretta Devine was already, you know, becoming Loretta Devine. And these women in the room, they were not singers, they were sangers, baby. The building was literally levitating off the concrete, that’s how wonderful they were. And then there was me.”
The Abbott Elementary star then went on to recall that the casting team asked her to sing “something from church,” so she gave them a performance of “Ave Maria.”
“They were very quiet,” she quipped. “I think they were thinking something more in the Baptist vein. And they did not know that I was a little Episcopalian girl. So I sang my little song and I sat down. At the end of the day, ’cause this was hours now, at the end of this, they said very dramatically, ‘If I call your name, it’s your day, if I don’t, it’s not.’ Yes, it was very dramatic. And then they said, ‘Loretta Devine.’ Uh, duhh. ‘Ramona Brooks and,’ and I’m gettin’ ready to leave, ‘and Sheryl Lee Ralph.'”
Later in the interview, Ralph reminisced about how her Dreamgirls choreography turned into an impromptu performance with Hudson, complete with some “Dreamgirl magic” and a pair of bright pink feather boas.
“I can’t believe I get to do this,” Hudson marveled before showing off her bevel and launching into the musical’s title track with the Broadway legend.
Watch Hudson and Ralph relive their Dreamgirls days below.