On the stage, a trio of white singers has just appropriated a black rhythm-and-blues group's song about the American dream of success and assimilation by releasing a sugary version of the ballad. As the black band and vocalists are overtaken by the pop group, the back of the stage fills with shadowy figures dealing cash to disk jockeys and the song changes to ''Steppin' to the Bad Side,'' the first all-out production number in ''Dreamgirls.''

It is a scene charged with motion that depends for much of its dramatic effect on the sharpened precision of Tharon Musser's lighting design. The upstage villains are bathed in ominous green light - the physical embodiment of the corrupt side of success - while the reality of payola literally dawns on the black musicians as brighter lights slowly rise on them.