Can it be possible? Can MOTOWN, the musical produced and written by Motown’s founder Berry Gordy (an excellent Brandon Victor Dixon) run off with many of the musical awards this season?
Coming in under the radar and without big name stars portraying some of the biggest names in Motown musical history – Diana Ross (the sensational, brilliant and beautiful Valisia LeKae), Smokey Robinson (Charl Brown), Marvin Gaye (Bryan Terrell Clark), Mary Wells (N’Kenge) and Stevie Wonder (Ryan Shaw) – MOTOWN succeeds brilliantly with its incredible cast who all deliver terrific performances. Sometimes we feel that they are the actual stars so fine are their portrayals. Portrayals that never become clichés or caricatures of these most famous and larger than life personalities.
There is also a very young boy with an old soul – Michael Jackson – portrayed magnificently by Raymond Luke (alternating with Jibreel Mawry) who has that same sparkle of genius and rouses the audience to a fever pitch in Act II.
MOTOWN the musical, from its very first notes fires up the audience and never lets its entertainment values diminish for almost three jam packed, hit parade hours of the famous and beloved songs that came out of the small independent studio founded by Berry Gordy in Detroit Michigan.
A man who had a dream and who would never let go of it, until he arrived on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre to showcase and to remind us all of those fabulous songs that many of the audience sang along with. It’s that kind of show. And it’s wonderful that so many people know and admire and feel the love coming across the footlights and honor the artists by sending their love back to them in tribute to all their fine accomplishments.
This is not a traditional book musical. The book, as it is, is merely the connective tissue to lead us through the musical history and legacy of Motown’s extensive catalog – a legacy of love. And it shows.
From the incredibly inventive set by David Korins to the eye popping costumes by Esosa (especially the gowns for Diana Ross), the masterful lighting design by Natash Katz (there seem to be as many light cues as there are notes of music) and the inventive choreography by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams that time travels through the years starting in 1938 to 1983 where the show begins with the 25th Anniversary celebration of Motown where all of its stars are gathered to pay tribute to the egotistical, creative and stubborn man of the hour Mr. Berry Gordy who may or may not be attending. That’s the set up under the inspired direction by Charles Randolph-Wright.
What follows is the truest form of celebration that grabs the audience immediately and never lets up. Berry Gordy wanted to be loved and to share it with everyone no matter what their race or color. If we don’t discover the deepest details and if he comes out unscathed it matters not. MOTOWN the musical is a marathon of pure entertainment and deserves the sixteen million dollar advance and sold out houses. MOTOWN is a blast – signed, sealed and delivered.
www.Motownthemusical.com Photos: Joan Marcus
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