*After hearing varied opinions about the good and bad of the play Motown the Musical, I was glad to get the chance to see it myself to make my own determination. The play which opened on Sunday April 14th, proved quite entertaining. This musical extravaganza is delighting audiences at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, located at 205 West 46th Street, in Manhattan. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, this collaboration between Kevin McCollum, Doug Morris and Berry Gordy is adapted to the stage via Berry Gordy’s book entitled “To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown.”
Motown the Musical takes the audience down a hit-filled historic past when Motown was at its zenith. Naturally it couldn’t mention in 2-hours the numerous contributions of the many songwriters and artists who made Motown the greatest independent music company in the world or tell the complete Motown story. But I must give props to individuals like Ethan Popps for the wonderful musical arrangements and orchestration, to the band led by conductor Joseph Joubert and associate conductor, Jason Michael Webb. Kudos go to the inventive scenery of David Korins and to ESosa who offered up lovely costume designs as well as praise to Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams who provided the creative choreography.
I must say the casting director put together a cadre of incredible talent that makes Motown the Musical well worth the ticket. The cast did their homework with Valisia LeKae (Diana Ross), Charl Brown (Smokey Robinson), Bryan Terrell Clark (Marvin Gaye) and youths Raymond Luke, Jr., and Jibreel Mawry performing in the roles of the young Berry Gordy, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder. These artists literally channeled their characters.
While there are diverse opinions on what went on to make Motown the success it was, this show is told through the viewpoint of hit maker Berry Gordy. It touches lightly on his short featherweight boxing career, his love affair with Diana Ross and his determination to bring the musical talents of African Americans to the world-at-large. Played by Brandon Victor Dixon, Gordy struggles to keep his hit factory afloat. And indeed, “Motown the Musical” is a dazzling array of nearly 60 song classics like “My Guy,” “My Girl,” “ABC,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “I’ll Be There,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “War,” “Super Freak,” “What’s Going On,” and “Good Morning, Heartache.” The audience is reintroduced to groups like The Marvelettes, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Commodores, The Jackson Five, Gladys Knight and the Pips and artists like Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner, Teena Marie, Rick James, Gladys Knight and Diana Ross, et al. The entire ensemble cast worked hard to make this show a fabulous walk down memory lane.
As far as this reviewer is concerned “Motown the Musical” comes signed, sealed, delivered and is definitely yours. I recommend it.