Motown the Musical, a production direct from Broadway is an expressive performance and a timeline of iconic Motown hits.
The book, written by Berry Gordy himself, is based on his life and his creation of the Motown record label and how he built the careers of superstars such as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. I previously wrote about the incredible movement of the Motown music, the storyline in which the Motown hits are woven around.
The musical has an exploding start as the audience are instantly taken back to 1957, through the dazzling costumes and signature choreography, it is a trip back in time to when music made history. The simplicity of the set designed by David Korins is effective as it allows slick transitions, from Berry Gordy’s record studio to the Las Vegas stage, it sets a tone of timelessness. The stage is lit exceptionally, lighting designer Natasha Katz creates a sensational ambience.
Cedric Neal is outstanding as Motown legend Berry Gordy, he commands the stage with his remarkable vocals, his voice is smooth yet maintains excellent vibrancy. His rendition of Can I Close The Door exudes passion, with a musical containing over 50 songs, the storyline isn’t weak yet it lacks a certain depth however Neal’s poignancy and emotional depth is in this exceptional number. Similarly his chemistry with Lucy St Louis who plays Motown royalty Diana Ross is highly compelling, particularly in their duet You’re All I Need To Get By, a moving moment in the show.
St Louis captures Diana Ross’ vivacious and animated character superbly, her character progression is portrayed flawlessly as she conveys the innocence and naivety of Diana when she first joins Berry’s record label to her strength and confidence when she becomes a star. Vocally St Louis is masterly, she effortlessly belts out Diana Ross’ classic Motown hits such as Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand).
Berry Gordy’s strong friendship with singer Smoky Robinson played by Charl Brown is a touching aspect of the show. Brown’s portrayal of Smoky is authentic, he expresses charm in his charismatic nature. Similarly, Sifiso Mazibuko depicts Marvin Gaye’s potent character and intense passion exceptionally.
Child actor Eshan Gopal who plays young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson is astounding. His energy and personality is terrific, he is a highly impressive performer. Vocally pristine, he riffs and belts the high notes encapsulating the essence of young Michael Jackson.
Choreographers Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams have created exhilarating choreography that reproduces the signature style of the era. The choreography for The Temptations is sharp and dynamic, reflecting the energy and magnetism of the group. Ensemble numbers such as War are choreographed superbly, the power of the movement and vocals simultaneously create formidable stage presence.
Motown the Musical is inundated with nostalgia, contextualised with notable moments in history such as the assassination of Martin Luther King, the musical moves fluidly. The music is brought to life by the band, musically directed by Gareth Weedon, the theatre pulsates with soulful spirit.
Motown the musical is inevitable to leave you dancing in the street, currently on at The Shaftesbury Theatre, tickets can be found on their website.