THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 17 AUGUST 2019 & TOUR
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL
RUNNING TIME 2 HOURS 35 MINUTES – 1 interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 7 AUGUST 2019
If you want to build a musical around a specific music genre, then ‘Motown – The Musical’ is going to be hard to beat. If this is your kind of music, then you are not going to be disappointed.
The show is jam-packed full of numbers from the Motown record label as created by producer and impresario Berry Gordy.
The show charts the rise of Motown through the eyes of Gordy, from his very humble beginnings to being the toast of the music world via the ups and downs that a life in the spotlight brings. So, we see the development of stars such as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson – all part of the Motown ‘movement’ that had such a major effect of the development of music.
As the decades pass, the story is set against the context of history; the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, the race riots, segregation and the Ku Klux Klan – all gave energy to black music.
Recreating iconic performers on stage is fraught with pitfalls, but the staging of the numbers in this show is spot-on. The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Three Degrees – the very precise choreography by Patricia Wilcox, Warren Adams and Brian Harlan Brooks is perfectly executed by the cast – it’s very impressive.
Technically this show is also a triumph. Imaginative lighting is combined with the best projections I have ever seen – they are mesmerising; transforming the stage in an instant to ensure the show moves along with pace. The use of newsreel footage brings the whole show into the real world without ramming it down your throat. The sound is also excellent; this is not a show where the music holds back and the terrific band under Griff Johnson give full value to the plethora of brilliant numbers. Costumes too are accurate and conjour up the era perfectly.
The show is dominated by Gordy – who incidentally is one of the producers of the piece – as played by Edward Baruwa, he is inspirational, sometimes erratic but ultimately committed to those who he wishes to see succeed. Baruwa is tremendous – a powerhouse of a voice and an impressive stage presence.
Karis Anderson shows the development of Diana Ross from playful ingenue to full diva – she has an impressive wardrobe of frocks and wigs and a voice of range and depth. Nathan Lewis is a wonderfully cheeky and likeable Smokey Robinson – a well-judged and very warm performance with another first-rate voice. Shak Gabbidon-Williams also has fun with the combative but brilliant Marvin Gaye – singing ‘Dancing in the Streets’ as if he was born to.
The large ensemble work their socks off – there is a huge amount for them to do and they do it with flair and gusto. It’s an impressive team.
I mustn’t forget to pick out the young actor who has the opportunity to shine in three roles – as young Gordy, young Stevie Wonder and young Michael Jackson – Jovy Domingos is just wonderful; a cheeky chappy with a glint in his eye and power in his singing voice. A delightful performance.
Such are the vast number of songs which are staged in the show that there is not too much room for an in depth look at the characters and so the emotional connection is never as strong as you might like it to be, but this is a show about the music and it does it very well.
A full-blown music extravaganza – a highly satisfying tribute to great music.
BERRY GORDY – EDWARD BARUWA
DIANA ROSS – KARIS ANDERSON
SMOKEY ROBINSON – NATHAN LEWIS
MARVIN GAYE – SHAK GABBIDON-WILLIAMS
YOUNG BERRY, YOUNG STEVIE WONDER, YOUNG MICHAEL JACKSON – JOVY DOMINGOS
ENSEMBLE – DAYO ADEOYE, NATALIA BROWN, ANDREW DILLON, AKEEM ELLIS-HYMAN, CHRISTOPHER GOPAUL, DANIEL HASWELL, OLIVIA HIBBERT, KARIS JACK, MICHAEL JEREMIAH, ABZ KAREEM, KANE MATTHEWS, DEEARNA MCLEAN, MATT MILLS, CORDELL MOSTELLER, NICOLE NYARAMBI, SPENCER O’BRIEN, PERRY O’DEA, ALEX OKOAMPA, REECE RICHARDS, EMMA ROBOTHAM-HUNT, SCOTT ARMSTRONG, SIMEON BECKETT, ETHAN DAVIS, AMANA JONES
DIRECTOR – CHARLES RANDOLPH-WRIGHT
CHOREOGRAPHY – PATRICIA WRIGHT, WARREN ADAMS
CHOREOGRAPHY RE-STAGING – BRIAN HARLAN BROOKS
SCENIC DESIGN – DAVID KORINS
COSTUME DESIGN – EMILIO SOSA
LIGHTING DESIGN – NATASHA KATZ
SOUND DESIGN – PETER HYLENSKI
PROJECTION DESIGN – DANIEL BRODIE
MUSIC SUPERVISION& ARRANGEMENTS – ETHAN POPP
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – GRIFF JOHNSON