MOTOWN – THE MUSICAL
OPERA HOUSE, MANCHESTER
RUNS UNTIL 23 MARCH, Manchester and touring
Runs 2 hours 40 minutes including a 15 minute interval.
Review: Graham Clarke, 4 March 2019
Whether you are a fan of the Motown songs or not, it would be hard not to enjoy this uplifting and entertaining show.
With just $800 borrowed from his family Berry Gordy founded Motown Records and launched the careers of legendary artists such as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and The Temptations – all of which appear in the musical at some point.
Edward Baruwa plays Berry Gordy – like Gordy himself, he is a commanding figure who really is the man who not only holds Motown together but the whole show too. Gordy strikes up a relationship with Diana Ross (Karis Anderson) which develops as they become lovers.
Whilst Ross is more concerned with the romantic side of their relationship Gordy, as ever the businessman has eyes on furthering her career and encourages her to leave The Supremes and go solo.
Against the backdrop of all the hits it was not always easy for Black American artists to get their songs played on the radio. It was good to see that the current affairs of the time such as the Kennedy assassination and the Martin Luther King Jnr assassinations are highlighted.
The one character who is with Gordy from the early days right to the 1980’s is Smokey Robinson played convincingly by Nathan Lewis. Shak Gabbidon- Williams manages to pull off Marvin Gaye. His take on I Heard It Through The Grapevine has the sold out audience singing nearly as loud as him!
At times you could have been forgiven for thinking that you had walked in on a Motown revue show as each act appeared on stage but it was not long before it was back to the unfolding story.
Hit songwriters behind many of the hits Holland, Dozier, Holland appear briefly in the show but it would have been nice to have seen more of them as they were the main writers for the majority of the Motown hits. Like most of the Motown artists they leave the label as the competition offer them more lucrative deals.
With a lot of the big artists leaving Gordy tries to re invent the label by signing new artists such as Rick James and Teena Marie, interestingly enough because they were never as big as the original artists, when the newer artists appear on stage their names are also shown alongside them – which stops the majority of the audience asking “who is that?”
Really though it is the songs that are the Stars of the night. One of the highlights is when Gordy and Ross duet together on You’re All I Need To Get By, who cares that the original was sung by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell when this version sends shivers down your spine.
The show concludes with a mix of all the songs performed during the rest of the night, the audience are on their feet and it could be 1968 all over again.
Yes, the audience were even Dancing In The Streets as they left this feel good show.
Berry Gordy – Edward Baruwa
Diana Ross – Karis Anderson
Smokey Robinson – Nathan Lewis
Marvin Gaye – Shak Gabbidon-Williams
Director – Charles Randolph-Wright
Choreography- Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams
Music Supervision – Ethan Pop