By Nicola of Mind Garbage blog
First things first, for anyone who doesn’t know what Motown the Musical is, here is the official description of the show.
With just $800 borrowed from his family Berry Gordy founded Motown Records and launched the careers of legendary artists including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Temptations, and many more.
This is the next chapter in Motown’s incredible history and is an experience you’ll never forget. Featuring over 50 classic hits including My Girl, What's Going On, Dancing in the Street, I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Ain't No Mountain High Enough.
Motown The Musical tells the thrilling tale of the man who broke barriers, fought against the odds to create something more than a record label. Discover the story behind Motown, the personal relationships, the professional struggles, and - of course - the music that made history, defined the sound of a generation and got the whole world moving to the same beat.
Not only is this an amazing expression of a particularly great time for music, it is also a great story that is worth telling, and one that until tonight I was mostly unaware of. A story about how music can overcome many barriers and bring people together, and with the hard work of the artists, and Berry Gordy Motown records managed to do just that.
Before I saw the show I wasn’t sure if the story was going to be very present or whether it would just be a bunch of motown classics masquerading as a musical, but there is no doubt that the plot of the show is very much present and just as (if not more) powerful than the music.
There are 2 main storylines intertwined throughout the show, the main one is of course that of Berry Gordy building Motown Records and all of the drama that comes along with it, the second is his relationship with Diana Ross. Both of these storylines of course run alongside each other wonderfully. But the real underlying theme is so evident at the end of the show that no one could possibly doubt that love is really what it was about all along. Their love for each other, their love for the music, and their love for the man who brought them all together.
I’d like to be able to pick one stand out star of the show to tell you about, but the truth is that the entire cast work together and compliment each other so well, that every single one of them shines while they are on stage. I wasn’t sure whether or not they would all be able to fill the big shoes of the legends that they were playing, but they all managed to do an exceptional job.
One character in particular however did stand out to me as adding an extra level of heart and light relief to the show and that was Smokey Robinson played by Nathan Lewis, if found the character to be effortlessly charming and funny in a very endearing way.
Berry Gordy was played Edward Baruwa who had an incredibly commanding presence on the stage, which was perfectly complemented by the wonder that was Karis Anderson as Diana Ross. The two worked together extremely well and had excellent chemistry on stage.
As well as the vocals, the music itself was amazing, and the sets were absolutely stunning. Hats off the entire team working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring to life the legacy of an amazing man in such a terrific way. And especially the director Charles Randolph-Wright who did a magnificent job with this show.
Now, the official description of the show says it is a thrilling tale, and there can be absolutely no doubt that it is, however, what makes the show even more thrilling is the feeling in the audience as the show goes on. At the beginning it felt like sitting down to any other show in the theatre, exciting of course, but not any more extraordinary than any other time I’ve been.
I can pinpoint the moment that the feeling in the audience changed, the energy increased, and it went from feeling like a musical, to feeling like something I haven’t really experienced before. That moment was during Dancing in the Street, that was when the I heard the first person singing along, and saw the first people dancing in their chairs.
From that point on the atmosphere was something completely different, people were clapping along to the hits, dancing and singing along as well. It really felt like rather than being in a theatre in Leeds watching a musical, we were all in the crowd at a genuine Motown music show. It was an exciting thing to be a part of. By the end, the entire crowd was on it’s feet dancing and singing along, it was a standing ovation of a completely different sort.
Whether you are a fan of Motown, a fan of theatre, a fan of music in general, or simply want a night of being transported to another time and place, then I would highly recommend that you go and see this show. You won’t be disappointed.
The show is running at Leeds Grand Theatre until the 17th November and is selling out fast, if you want to see this and other phenomenal shows then tickets are available at www.leedsgrandtheatre.com
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