Tuesday, May 5, 2015

'Motown The Musical' Is Music To The Ears

By Darlene Donloe

Motown the Musical isn’t just a show, it’s an experience!

The experience, directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, is about that incredibly music that took hold in the 60s and left a lasting legacy. It’s about that sound. It’s also the story of Berry Gordy and how he took an $800 loan from his family and turned it into the legendary empire called Motown.  It’s also the story of the artists who came to be associated with a sound that was heard and revered worldwide.

But it’s so much more than that. It’s about emotion, commitment, tenacity and pride. It’s about the pride of the people of Detroit, who claimed Motown as their own.

The music. There is nothing like that music.

The show starts off with a big bang pitting The Four Tops and The Temptations against each other in an epic battle that has them one upping each other with hit after hit. The show starts there and doesn’t let up. Lights, camera, action, music!!! 

From the beginning the show grabs the audience by the ears and doesn’t let go. More than 40 classic Motown hits are featured in what can only be described as a musical extravaganza.

Some of songs in the show include: ABC, Ball of Confusion, Cruisin, War, Two Lovers, What’s Going On, Reach Out and Touch, It’s The Same Old Song, Shop Around, I Hear A Symphony, Where Did Our Love Go, I Can’t Help Myself, My Guy, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Stop The Love You Save, My Girl and more.

Gordy boasted the baddest group of performers on the planet - backed by the baddest studio musicians called The Funk Brothers. The Motown roster was delicious.  The envious list included The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Jackson Five, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Tammi Terrell, Edwin Starr, Jr. Walker and the All Stars, The Supremes, The Marvelettes, Mary Wells, The Commodores, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Brenda Holloway, The Isley Brothers, Rick James, The Spinners and more. It just doesn’t get any better than that!!

The two-hour musical is vibrant, magical and full of high-energy.

The show, direct from Broadway, is currently enjoying a limited six-week run at the Pantages theater in Hollywood through June 7.

It concluded its Broadway run as both a critical and audience favorite and a commercial hit, having recouped its $18 million investment at the end of 2014. Most recently, the first national tour recouped its $8.5 million capitalization cost in less than 10 months on the road. Motown the Musical is planning a UK production for Spring 2016 and a Broadway return for summer 2016.
Julius Thomas III and Allison Semmes star as Berry Gordy and Diana Ross respectively.  They not only deliver phenomenal performances, they lead an impressive cast that fuels a high-octane show. The voices soar and the choreography is enthusiastic. Leon Outlaw Jr. nearly steals the show with his portrayal of a young Michael Jackson. His voice is like butter. Jesse Nager (Smokey Robinson) and Jarran Muse (Marvin Gaye) also standout.

Motown the Musical isn’t just about the good times. It pulls back the curtain on Berry Gordy’s warts including his affair with Diana Ross and being sued by Holland Dozier Holland over money.

All of the drama is, of course, set to music.

Audience members could be seen bopping throughout the show as the Motown sound wafted through the behemoth theater.

The show is a treat! Run, don’t walk to experience Motown The Musical.

The stellar cast includes: Julius Thomas III, Allison Semmes, Jesse Nager, Jarran Muse, Erick Buckley, Patrice Covington, Nathaniel Cullors, Jamarice Daughtry, Ashley Tamar Davis, Lynorris Evans, Melanie Evans, Anissa Felix, Devon Goffman, Jennie Harney, Rod Harrelson, Robert Hartwell, Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., Trisha Jeffrey, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Jarvis B. Manning Jr., Krishna Marcano, Marq Moss, Rashad Naylor, Chadae Nichol, Leon Outlaw Jr., Ramone Owens, Nicholas Ryan, Jamison Scott, Reed L. Shannon, Joey Stone, Doug Storm, Martina Sykes, Donald Webber Jr. and Galen J. Williams.

Motown The Musical is produced by Kevin McCollum, Doug Morris, Berry Gordy and the Nederlander Organization.

Music and lyrics from the Motown catalog, Book by Berry Gordy Jr., based on the book To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown.

Motown the Musical, 8 p.m. Tues.-Fri.; 2 and 8 p.m. Sat and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun. through June 7; tickets start at $25; Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. For information: www.MotownTheMusical.com or www.HollywoodPantages.com/Motown.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no!), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (Oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Motown The Musical gets an E (excellent).

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