"HIT factories don’t come much more productive than Motown"
-The Daily Express-

"What’s not to like?"
-The Times-

"expert choreography and sure direction"
-The Daily Telegraph-

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Glitzy, dramatic and entertaining

Critic Rating

22 February 2016, Shaftesbury Theatre
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
In 1959, an unknown song writer from Detroit received an $800 loan from his family and used it to start his own music company. Berry Gordy bought a property on West Grand Boulevard and named the building Hitsville with the slogan: “a place where a kid off the street could walk in one door an unknown and go out another a star”. This certainly became true, with Motown being born just over a year later and artists such as Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and the Jackson 5 churning out hit after hit, enabling Motown to become one of the biggest record companies of all time.

Motown the Musical, based on Gordy’s 1994 autobiography and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, weaves Gordy’s story of early passion and later success with Motown through historical moments in American history such as Martin Luther King’s death and the Vietnam War. Songs such as ‘War’ by Edwin Starr and Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ are performed powerfully, with long-haired and Afro-donning hippies putting the musical into context with these important events. One continuing theme throughout the musical however, is the relationship between Gordy and Diana Ross.

Played by Lucy St Louis, Ross is as glitzy, dramatic and entertaining as you’d expect her to be, with vocals that sound almost exactly like the diva herself. From a brazen 15 year-old turning up at Hitsville to sing, help out or do anything at all, to becoming one of the most successful acts of her generation, Ross rivalled in popularity with the Beatles. Ross is shown to be the love behind everything that Gordy does for the label, and the reason he puts his all into it.

Gordy (Cedric Neal) has both professional and personal relationships with other artists played out on stage, from his friendship with Smokey Robinson to his differing opinions with Marvin Gaye, and his seemingly strong distaste for ‘kid acts’ such as Little Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 – that is, until he hears them sing.

As the years ago by into the mid-70s and early 80s, artist by artist slowly leaves Motown, from the Jackson 5 to Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye, leaving Gordy in a state of dismay with mounting debts. His legacy remains however, with the Motown 25th Anniversary TV special being aired, in which many of the disbanded acts are reunited.

With songs such as ‘Reach Out…I’ll Be There’, ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’, ‘ABC’ and ‘Heard It through the Grapevine’ plus many, many more, Motown is the perfect musical for those who are fans of the music that united a segregated world and made everyone fall in love with that Motown sound. Although there were so many songs sung, I personally felt like there could have been a few more hits thrown in, but maybe that just goes to show just how many hits Hitsville really had…

Reviewed by Alice Bzowska.

Neil Norman
Clearly writer and co-producer Gordy is no shrinking violet when it comes to self-promotion but then he has a lot to promote. The stars of the show are Gordy (Cedric Neal), Diana Ross (Lucy St Louis), Smokey Robinson (Charl Brown) and Marvin Gaye (Sifiso Mazibuko) with an ensemble playing a variety of groups and artists who contributed to Motown’s success.
Dominic Maxwell
What’s not to like? A hit on Broadway, this chronicle-cum-celebration of Tamla Motown arrives in the West End complete with faithful and dynamic re-creations of some of the greatest pieces of soul pop ever recorded.
Dominic Cavendish
If anyone has the right to plunder the gilded back-catalogue for the juke-box musical to end them all, it’s Gordy – still going at 86. And that’s what we get here in a lavish, slick, song-crammed show, first seen on Broadway in 2013. In its triumphant new West End incarnation, it gives a valuable leg-up to a mass of young, gifted and black British talent and puts such a spring in its audience’s step, you may well see people dancing in the street along Shaftesbury Avenue.
Mark Shenton
There's a lot of Diana Ross, and she's impersonated with uncanny vocal accuracy by Lucy St Louis here, and physically represented by her trademark flamboyant costumes, brilliantly summonsed by Esosa. St Louis even does the walk-downs into the audience like Ross always did, and there's a good bit of singalong participation, too.