MOTOWN, The Musical follows the story of the man who founded the Motown record label, Barry Gordy. The show written by Gordy is his own account of events of the 1960s and how they shaped the creation of the label and the ultimate sale of it in 1988.
The show opens with foot tapping performances from The Temptations and The Miracles, who are rehearsing for the Motown 25th Anniversary Concert, a reunion of every act Gordy had managed.
The story switches back to 1938 when Gordy was a child, enthused for success by Joe Louis beating Max Schmelling, a fight seen as more than just a boxing match. We skip forward to 1957 and Gordy is now a successful amateur boxer and budding music writer. Thanks to his sister, Gwen, they convince Jacky Wilson to record “Reet Petite”, a song they had co-written. Whilst it wasn’t a big hit straight off it gave Gordy the appetite to progress his dream to discover new acts and produce music. One of his first acts was The Miracles, led by Smokey Robinson. It was Smokey’s encouragement that led Gordy to borrowing $800 from his family to set up his first record label.
Gordy (played convincingly by understudy Cordell Mosteller) supported by Smokey (Nathan Lewis) expands the business to become a global success, and in later years Gordy acknowledges that there would have been no Motown without Smokey and the Miracles. Both leads have great voices and deliver on many numbers during the show.
Much of the story focuses on the growth of Superstar Diana Ross, from her first days with the Supremes, through her solo singing career and film successes. Karis Anderson who plays Diana Ross exudes everything great about her character, from the lightness in her voice on softer parts, to the robust strong powerful moments, she engages with audience as though Ross is on stage herself.
The other notable performances are Marvin Gaye (Shak Gabbidon-Williams) who performs throughout the show delivering great renditions of classics such as “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and Young Berry Gordy / Stevie Wonder / Michael Jackson, who was played for this performance by Jovy Domingos and what a performance! His mimicry of Stevie Wonder and his moves of Michael Jackson show this lad has a promising future ahead of him.
Gordy signed Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Marry Wells, Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Four Tops, The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder. With a list of over sixty music credits for the show it would be hard to sit and list every songs performance, however, the cast keep up the tempo of the show and deliver every song as performed back in the day.
The staging of the show makes excellent use of video walls that allow the constant transitioning of scenes to take place effortlessly. My one criticism of the show would be the sound during dialogue – a number of audience members are of the original Motown generation and understanding what was being said was extremely difficult. This is a frustration in many shows nowadays where too much focus is placed on getting the music right at the expense of the narrative.
Charles Randolph-Wright (Director) has ensured the show is as authentic with the performances as possible, whilst delivering a show that can appeal to all ages. Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams (Choreographers) ensure that iconic dance moves of the 60s will remain long in our memories. Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook have orchestrated a Motown Musical masterclass, making sure that classic sound is captured in the performances.
This show is for any fan of Motown, who will love the history whilst listening to an extensive back catalogue of hits.
Motown The Musical is at The Regent Theatre, Stoke until Saturday 1 June 2019. To book tickets visit atgtickets.com/stoke or click here…