Motown the Musical is much more than a showcase for its music it’s also a lesson in American musical history.
I saw this production at Manchester Opera house during the recent UK tour. It has enjoyed a successful spell in London.
I was fortunate to win these tickets and wasn’t sure whether I really fancied the show. Don’t get me wrong I love a trip to the theatre and Motown music formed the backdrop to my teenage and school years. I usually research shows I go to see but in this case I hadn’t.
Motown the Musical
With just $800 borrowed from his family, Berry Gordy founded Motown records and launched the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and many more. Motown the Musical brings this story to life and follows the record label through the decades up to the point of the 25th Anniversary celebration.
The show starts at the end e.g. the day of the 25th Anniversary party where Berry Gordy feels disillusioned and rejected by many of his artists. The initial dialogue is with him and his life long friend and brother in law Smokey Robinson. From this scene the show follows the story back in time from the start of Gordy’s story.
The initial music depicts The Temptations and The Four Tops tip toeing around each other in competition singing their collective songs. The vocals and choreographed moves that were the ‘norm’ of the time are on display. So slick and suave with sharp shiny suits. The original boybands! I love watching these old acts on Youtube and I felt really nostalgic seeing them portrayed on the stage.
I was hooked from this first scene – singing along, proud that I remembered all the words! The show continues at a fast pace with so many memorable songs Featuring over 50 classic hits including My Girl, What’s Going On, Dancing in the Street, I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
The show continues to flow through the years, Smokey Robinson an ever present. It portrays the relationship between the iconic songwriting team of Holland Dozier and Holland responsible for so many hits.
There is a portrayal of so many stars we have known and love from The Supremes featuring Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five.
I’ve read many stories of Diana Ross being a Diva and this is how she is portrayed throughout the show. She had a long standing relationship with Gordy but ultimately leaves him and his label after being offered more money by RCA records. In this production Miss Ross was played by Karis Anderson of the band Stooshe. She plays her well although I thought her voice mimicked Ross’s best at the lowest softest notes. The wardrobe worn by her and the Supremes was amazing – oh to be 20 years younger and 6 sizes smaller!
I have to give a special mention to the young actor who played Michael Jackson in his early days. Yami is a local Manchester lad who got the role after attending open auditions – he was so like the real thing! His vocals and movements were great to see.
What I really liked about the show was that the History of black people and civil rights ran as a backdrop throughout the story. Events portrayed included the assassinations of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King through to the Black Power movement, strongly supported by Marvin Gaye.
I attended a Monday night show and I don’t think it was the liveliest of audience. The cast encourages the audience to join in with songs and the final seat has the audience on its feet. I suspect on a livelier night the audience could be dancing in the aisles.
The music of Motown has now been around for 60 years and is definitely here to stay!
Motown the Musical tells the thrilling tale of the man who broke barriers, fought against the odds to create something more than a record label. Discover the story behind Motown, the personal relationships, the professional struggles, and – of course – the music that made history, defined the sound of a generation and got the whole world moving to the same beat.
Motown the Musical continues to tour around the UK after leaving Manchester and I highly recommend it if you are a music fan.
Any trip to the theatre is turned into a special occasion with a pre show dinner. The Ivy Manchester is virtually next door to The Opera House, a fabulous venue that I reviewed in February.
Thanks for reading