By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times
Vasthy Mompoint always knew she loved the Dreamgirls musical, but she didn’t know how much until she became director of the popular play.
“Dreamgirls is an amazing show. I’ve always liked it. I liked some of the songs and I love the movie, but it wasn’t my favorite musical. The more I started setting it and getting ready for it, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is an amazing show,’” she said.
Mompoint, 42, the Broadway and Hollywood multi-hyphenated dancer- choreographer- and actor from Hoover is making her directorial debut at Red Mountain Theatre with the production of Dreamgirls which runs February 3-19 on Thursdays through Sunday at 7 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.
The musical is a love letter to American R&B music, while telling the story of a young trio from Chicago and their quest for stardom in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The show is a beautiful story because it’s about “sisterhood, and not just female relationships, but Black female relationships, and how much harder you had to work as a Black person to get what was easier for others was obvious back then especially in the 60’s,” Mompoint said. “[It] touches a lot on creative property on the stealing of Black creative property.”
According to the director, attendees will experience beautiful music and an amazing cast.
“When I went and saw the Kinky Boots production here at Red Mountain Theatre that’s when I knew I wanted to work here. The talent won me over,” she said.
During rehearsal she realized the cast was extremely gifted and could do anything and she wanted to challenge them,” she said.
“Once I saw their skillset, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make the show harder.’ And I have. So there’s a lot of dancing and a lot of joy. I tried to put as much joy into the show as possible. I want every single person casted to be featured and to get their shine on because they are so good. They are so humble I don’t think they know how good they really are and that’s what I’m most excited about the audience seeing,” Mompoint said.
She added that the production has many themes and layers and anybody can find a lesson in it.
“It’s a really great show especially for the Black community and anyone that’s in entertainment needs to remember what’s important, as you rise to fame to keep your feet on the ground. And that’s one of the hardest things to do in the business.”
Mompoint has taught musical theatre at Red Mountain Theatre since April 2022. “I was hired here before they knew I was from Birmingham and that felt really good … I was excited to work in my hometown, be around my sisters and friends, and go to my favorite place on the planet, Milo’s.”
While she was teaching her classes Roy Lightner, the artistic director at Red Mountain Theatre asked her about directing Dreamgirls.
“I told him ‘thank you so much that’s very kind but, I’ve never directed a show. I can do choreography.’ Then he told me, ‘I think you have the skillset to do it and I’d be happy to be your mentor. I can help you if you have any questions.’”
“Vasthy Mompoint is a theatrical force of nature! I’ve had the honor to see Vasthy’s work as a performer and choreographer, have always been highly impressed by her artistic nature,” said Lightner. “She cares deeply about story driven work, but also the artists involved in the telling of that work. Dreamgirls [is the] perfect production for her artistic vision, and I am honored to witness her extraordinary work on this production.”
Mompoint mentally told herself she wasn’t going to direct the musical because she had never done it before.
When August came around and they gave her an official offer. Mompoint said she decided to give it a try “mainly because I love Red Mountain Theatre from when I had previously worked there in April. Due to the pandemic I was going through sadness and uninspiring kind of things. But the employees and students I taught at the youth camp were so amazing and they broke all of that apart. I was reminded why I loved musical theatre.”
With the encouragement from Lighter, Mompoint felt like she could do anything. Since the beginning of rehearsals the job has been both easy and hard in some ways.
As director, “the easy thing is my Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) brain,” Mompoint said. “So with ADD, people think it’s a lack of attention or laziness, but really, everyone has different kinds — mine is that it’s hyperactive, so I have energy all day. I can see and hear everything that’s usually happening in a room. Usually, that’s an annoying thing for me, but for directing and choreographing, it’s actually perfect, because I have to see and hear everything which is very stimulating and pleasing. The difficult part is my role of being in charge of something like this. I’ve had my own little companies and stuff that I’ve done. But I wasn’t used to people waiting for me to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” Mompoint said.
It took Mompoint some time to settle fully step into her role as the director. “I realized not only do they (the cast) want, they need me to make these decisions, they need me to give them my vision.”
Overall she credits the show to being joyful. “You want to dance, you want to cry, but you will leave so happy and satisfied.”
A New Area Code
Mompoint was raised alongside her oldest sister Darnell by their Haitian immigrant parents. Although she was born in New York, her parents moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where she attended multicultural schools and charter schools.
“I grew up in a Caribbean Community with a lot of Jamaicans and Asians and stuff, and people from Barbados,” Mompoint said.
In 1990, her family relocated to Hoover, Alabama.
“Moving to Hoover, AL was an interesting transition; it was like a different world, because we were one of a few Black kids in the school and one of the a few immigrants as well. My parents have very thick accents. There’s no denying that they’re Haitian. So it was a really interesting and confusing transition for me, especially at that age,” said Mompoint, who was between 10 and 11 at the time.
She attended Harriette W Gwin Elementary School, Simmons Middle School and Hoover High School.
Mompoint says she has always been very good at making friends.
Since the family moved around while she was younger “thank goodness I had friendly social skills,” she said.
In fourth grade, while attending Harriette W Gwin Elementary School, Mompoint met a group of schoolmates who told me to take a dance class with them. “I went and asked my mom if I could go,” said Mompoint, who can recall having a very hyperactive brain therefore if she wanted to do anything that required physical activity her parents would say “yes, go for it.”
As a fourth grader, her dance career began at Birmingham Dance Theatre which lasted up until the age of 17 when she graduated high school and says, “honestly, I had the best dance education [at the dance theatre] . . . It’s better than the average dance studio,” she said.
Birmingham Dance Theatre taught her how to be a professional, how to audition correctly, and how to hold respect for the teacher in the room, she said. “Which is the discipline and also a little bit of southerness that honestly I feel like has been keeping me working.”
In 2000, Mompoint received her bachelors in art degree from American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City and a certification to teach.
After graduation, she was last to get a job out of all of her colleagues.
“I wanted to be an MTV VJ. So I was trying to be on MTV. But when I graduated I realized that I needed more training than my peers. I felt I needed more classes. So when I didn’t get a job right away, I just kept taking dance classes and voice lessons until I landed a job. Finally I got my first job” touring with Ragtime Musical, which was based on a historical fiction novel about freedom and prejudice, wealth and poverty, hope and despair during the turn of the 20th century. It was her first major job where she went on a national tour.
“I was very lucky. I just kept working I went on to do a Broadway shows which is the pinnacle dream of theater. I got to do eight of them from the grounds up that were brand new shows” including Good Vibrations, Hot Feet, Mary Poppins, SpongeBob SquarePants and The Prom.
Eventually she began writing her own materials and submitting it to different networks. “I submitted my material to CBS and I got accepted into their sketch comedy writing program. So now I live in Los Angeles, writing and still auditioning for films and television.”
In addition, Mompoint is a voiceover character for a show called “Baby Shark” that’s currently on Nick Jr. and she is also on a writing scholarship with Saturday Night Live. “I always just have my hands in something because everything in the artistic world interests me,” she said.
In the future Mompoint hopes to direct more productions and audition for more roles on television and films. “My dream is to be an Issa Rae or Donald Glover and create my own stuff and provide work for people that don’t get opportunities often. I want to write and help direct tv shows,” she said.
Dreamgirls starring Tracy Winborn as Effie White, Halo Wheeler as Lorrell Robinson, Jeremy Jefferson, as Curtis Taylor, Jr. and Cameron White as James Thunder Early runs February 3-19 on Thursdays through Sunday at 7 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at redmoutaintheatre.org. Follow on Instagram @redmtntheatre and Facebook at Red Mountain Theatre
Updated at 2:52 p.m. on 2/1/2023 to correct the spelling of Vasthy Mompoint’s name.