Glitzy, dramatic and entertaining
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.