motown

 

That Motown sound filled the auditorium of The Fabulous Fox in a thoroughly enjoyable production of Motown the Musical.

 

The show highlights the rise and eventual decline of the legendary Motown label according to Berry Gordy. I feel that you need to keep that in mind since the show is told from his point of view. The show is based on his autobiography, “To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown.”

 

The show also focuses on the relationships Gordy had with the myriad of amazing artists Motown turned out including Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5....the list goes on and on – once again according to Barry Gordy. While the portrayal of the relationships is subject for scrutiny, the fact remains the artists of Motown, along with Mr. Gordy, broke cultural and musical boundaries and created some truly timeless music.

 

The music is clearly the star of the show. With over 50 songs, albeit most truncated for effect, the show is a stunning display of how music can help shape an era. One of the early highlights was the production of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' “Dancing in the Street.” The energy of the song is still as strong today as when it was originally released and the choreography made this one stand out.

 

Other outstanding musical productions include: Diana Ross' “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand),” Edwin Starr's “War,” The Jackson 5's “ I Want You Back,” Marvin Gaye's “What's Going On,” and The Temptations' “Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today).” Each of these numbers were given the respect they deserve with outstanding musical performances and sensational choreography. The original Motown Studio wasn't called “Hitsville U.S.A.” for no reason.

 

The actors all did a commendable job in representing each of their icons. Clifton Oliver Flaunted Gordy's unbridled determination, Allison Semmes displayed Diana's Ross' vulnerability and innocence, and Jesse Nager did a fabulous job in capturing Smokey Robinson's passion. Jarran Muse represented Marvin Gaye's inner struggle as his emotional (political?) performance was one of the heavier of the bunch. The one that stole my heart was Leon Outlaw, Jr. as a young Michael Jackson. His energy was infectious and his vocal performance was mind blowing – not one to be missed.

 

While the music and the acting were captivating, the technical aspects were somewhat distracting. The first act runs 1½ hours – I am not saying that there should be time limit on acts, but this one felt exhausting. It felt about 20 minutes too long. They could have tacked the last few numbers onto the second act giving the audience time to breathe and a restroom break.

 

The most grievous technical aspect was the sound. When you do a musical of this nature, the sound needs to be pristine. More than once the mix was off where the audience was hearing the background vocals over the lead vocals.

 

Despite the technical flaws, Motown the Musical is a must see production for any fan of that Motown sound. The show is chock-full of sensational music and if Mr. Gordy wants us to believe that the relationships in this show happened the way he says they did that is fine, but I think we all know who is truly “The Boss.”

 

Motown the Musical runs through November 30th. Please check www.fabulousfox.com for showtime and ticket prices.

 

You can follow me on Twitter @ReviewerJim.

 

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