Who has heard of Motown? I hope everyone’s hands are up in the air! Including my mums.
I am not exaggerating when I say she squealed with excitement when I told her she was going. Motown was her moment. Her time. She lived this era with her brother and sister. The trip had even more resonance since we recently lost my uncle. This evening turned into the perfect opportunity to celebrate happy memories.
Admittedly, I didn’t know a lot about the history of Motown or this musical. I knew the songs thanks to my mum but I would never have guessed so many stars came from this one record label. Or just how much of an impact it had on black and white communities across the world. It’s quite astonishing.
A step back in time
The show introduces you to Motown founder Berry Gordy, on the 25th Anniversary of his label and quickly throws you back to his humble beginnings as a child with an ear for music, a mind for business and a heart for soul. From there you meet the superstars of Motown, get a glimpse of the heightened political climate and learn of the challenges and setbacks Berry overcame, from fighting racism to appealing court cases. It’s the best kind of 2 hour history lesson.
The hit factory
Within that time you sure do get your money’s worth of music, from the likes of Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye to name literally a fraction. This show reels off hit after hit after hit, like it’s on fast forward, leaving little time for breathe but all the time for boogying.
We did not stop moving in our seats, itching to get up and dance. It was just as hard to keep quiet. People did sing along but can you blame them? I was glad to see the show allowed for moments of audience interaction and at points encouraged people to join in. It made it feel even more special and almost like a gig.
A collective force
I really struggle to pick out individual performances, as this show is such an ensemble effort. You’re only equal to the sum of your parts, and every cast member is top notch talent. Collectively they are a colossal force.
Edward Baruwa is a charming and funny Berry Gordy with a velvety voice making for a natural leading man. Karis Anderson captures Diana Ross’s rise to confidence, class and fame and Nathan Lewis brings a bright-eyed Smokey Robinson to life.
And even though the show is about the past, the set is very much a contemporary piece of design. Large panels slide in and out of stage, broadcasting HD imagery that transforms every scene. It’s a marvel and I have to admit, I caught myself admiring the set seamlessly moving around the stage. Could this show get any cooler?
My mum said, and I quote, “I didn’t want it to stop”. Now if that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is. Motown the Musical is a super slick production that will make your spine tingle, your feet tap and your heart swell.
I heard it through the grapevine that Motown the Musical is playing in Manchester for four weeks so get your tickets now!
Image credit: Tristram Kenton