December 18, 2006 12:00 PM

“I have butterflies in my stomach—I’m shaking!” Beyoncé Knowles confessed as she made her way down the red carpet on Dec. 4. in New York City. So was it those rumors of an upcoming wedding to her boyfriend of four years, Jay-Z, that had the star feeling wobbly? If so, Beyoncé wasn’t saying. What she would cop to was the emotional connection she feels to her latest big screen project, a film adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls, opening nationwide Dec. 25. “I’m so excited to share it with everyone,” she said. “I want everyone to love it like I love it.”

By the end of the night, it seemed as if Knowles—who plays Deena, the lead singer of a Supremes-type girl group hungry for fame, opposite ex-American Idol Jennifer Hudson as the heroic Effie White—just might get her wish. “It’s the best musical film since Chicago,” said Queen Latifah. “It was definitely something special.” Added Terrence Howard: “What Jennifer and Beyoncé did in that movie was powerful.”

The good vibes continued throughout the official afterparty at Gotham Hall, straight on into an after-afterparty cohosted by another one of the film’s stars, Jamie Foxx—who entertained revelers by serving as MC, shining a flashlight on those revelers who danced. “You will not ever see a [premiere] like that, where people were clapping for individual performances,” the Burberry-clad actor told the crowd.

At around 1:30 a.m. Hudson—who was the last star to arrive at the Ziegfeld theater for the premiere—turned up, a white fur stole over her Marc Bouwer gown. “Jennifer, how do you feel?” Foxx shouted. “I just feel blessed,” Hudson replied, before joining him in a duet of Dreamgirls‘ “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going).” Afterwards, Foxx gave Hudson a kiss and, hoisting a glass of champagne, shouted, “Party! We’re going to be here all night!”

All except for no-shows Eddie Murphy, who plays the dissolute soul singer Jimmy “Thunder” Early in the film, and Knowles, who told reporters that she “had a surprise” for Jay-Z after the premiere, which fell on his 37th birthday. Lucky guy. The couple flew on a balloon-filled private jet, with in-flight cuisine prepared by Top Chef’s Cynthia Sestito, to St. Barth’s, where they are expected to spend several days celebrating. The rest of the cast was soaring too. Hudson, Murphy and Dreamgirls itself are already considered front-runners in this year’s Oscar race.


The star debuts a new love amid reports that he’s expecting a baby with ex Melanie Brown

It was a romantic getaway, Brady Bunch-style: In August a recently divorced Eddie Murphy rounded up his five children (with ex-wife Nicole) and jetted to the Four Seasons hotel in Maui—where he was joined by ex-Spice Girl Melanie Brown and her daughter Phoenix Chi. As the couple lounged poolside throughout the weeklong vacation, their blended brood (who range in age from 4 to 16) surfed, boogie-boarded and dined at the local Spago outpost. “There was a lot of togetherness between the families,” said an onlooker.

That togetherness, however, would prove short-lived. Just hours before Murphy attended the Dreamgirls premiere, a Dutch TV show aired an interview with the actor in which he said that he and Brown were “not together anymore.” Given the couple’s high-speed relationship (they had only met in June at a party), the split may not have come as a surprise—except for reports that Brown is pregnant. (Although she sports a visible bump, she has neither confirmed nor denied the reports.) Murphy went on to distance himself from his ex by adding, “We don’t know whose child that is until it comes out and has a blood test. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions.” (A rep for Murphy said, “We do not comment on Mr. Murphy’s personal life.”)

What is clear, however, is that Murphy has moved on: He walked the Dreamgirls red carpet hand-in-hand with film producer Tracey Edmonds, 39, (ex-wife of singer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds), who told PEOPLE they had been dating about six weeks. “We’re having fun,” she said.

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