Berry Gordy’s story of musical history comes to life in Broadway’s Motown: The Musical. The four-time Tony nominated show is based off of Gordy’s autobiography, To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown. The musical made its Broadway debut in 2013 and is now on tour across the US and UK.
The audience is thrown into a time machine as soon as the curtain opens. The show begins with a lively dress rehearsal with the Temptations and the Four Tops in preparation for Motown’s 25th Anniversary Celebration. The joy and excitement for the anniversary is starkly contrasted by a stubborn Berry, played by Chester Gregory, who refuses to attend the event.
The crowd is taken back to Gordy’s beginning as a child in Detroit, dancing in the street with his neighbors. From writing songs for early pop stars to piecing together the Hitsville U.S.A. House, the journey to success was not an easy one.
The most prominent storyline was that of a wide-eyed high school student who came to Gordy, determined to be made into a star. Diana Ross, played by Alison Semmes, eventually blossomed into one of the most recognizable Motown stars. The love affair between Gordy and Ross, who affectionately called each other “Black”, was heavily highlighted as well.
Along the way, we’re introduced to a myriad of Motown sensations, their famous radio hits and how they came to be. The cast produced electrifying performances backed by an incredible orchestra. The Miracles, the Supremes, Smokie Robinson, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5 and so many more took the spotlight throughout the show.
As the years of sweet harmonies flowed on, the story does not shy away from the effects of significant historical events like the Civil Rights Movement, the Kennedy Assassination, and segregation. The pain and frustration of these times were channeled into the music. The battle of activism between Berry Gordy and Prince of Motown, Marvin Gaye manifested into the hits, “What’s Going On” and “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)”.
With over 40 Motown hits included, the vocals and dance moves match so perfectly to the originals, you’d think you were actually transported back in time. The most believable and remarkable performance was CJ Wright, an 11-year-old who embodied Little Stevie Wonder, Little Michael Jackson and Little Berry Gordy faultlessly.
Motown is a must see for music lovers, young and old. This is not just your grandparent’s Oldies album, it’s impossible not to sing along and bop your head to every single song.
Motown: The Musical will continue touring the US until September and additional dates are anticipated.