By Deborah Howell
Berry Gordy has had quite a life, to say the least. And luckily for us, he not only wrote some of the best songs in the American musical landscape–but this gifted mogul has also written one of the finest musicals ever to grace The Hollywood Pantages Theatre–or any theatre. Actively involved in the Civil Rights movement, Gordy is a songwriter, producer, director, innovative entrepreneur, teacher and visionary who released the recorded speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the world on the Motown Label, changing the American and world landscape forever.
His films include Lady Sings the Blues (five Academy Award nominations) and Mahogany.–and you’ll see the story of how this unfolded in
Motown: The Musical.” Mr. Gordy has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, is the Rainbow Coalition’s Man of the Millennium, holds the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the T.J. Martell Foundation’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award and the Grammy Salute to Industry Icons President’s Merit Award. And now he’s brought us one of the finest nights of musical theatre ever witnessed– and even danced on stage at the end of opening night with his lifetime friend, Smokey Robinson!
Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and on and on til the break-a-dawn.
Motown was the the hit-making enterprise that reached out across a racially divided, politically and socially charged country to transform popular music–at a time when America needed it most.
“Get Ready” cuz you’ll witness over 40 classic hits like “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, with arrangements and orchestrations a by Grammy and Tony Award® nominee Ethan Popp (Rock of Ages), who also serves as music supervisor in reproducing the classic “Sound of Young America,” with co-orchestrations and additional arrangements by Tony Award® nominee Bryan Crook (“Smash”) and dance arrangements by Zane Mark (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).
Chester Gregory as “Berry Gordy”, Allison Semmes “as Diana Ross”, and Jarran Muse as “Marvin Gaye” reprise their Broadway roles, and they are all enormously engaging. Ms. Semmes captures Diana Ross’ superb vocal quality to a “t” but also nails her self-absorption and impetuous side with equal ease. She knows just how to flash a leg or steal an audience with a smile a mile wide–and when she steps into the audience and deigns to let a member of the audience sing with her, you do feel her star presence in a powerful way. And you are as swept away by her charms as Berry Gordy was then–and is to this day.
A very winning and winsome performance by David Kaverman as “Smokey Robinson” has stayed with me for days now–that tremulous falsetto and that Cheshire smile is just too dreamy!
And look out, Broadway and West End–the explosive CJ Wright as “Young Michael Jackson” had the audience yelping and screaming and clapping to the rafters when he fronted the Jackson 5 in a scorching version of “ABC”. This is why musical theatre is like nothing else on earth and MUST be experienced live, in a great venue. But it’s here for less than two weeks, so shimmy on down to the Pantages before it’s gone.
This show was recently nominated for eleven 2016 NAACP Theatre Awards, pulling in four of the top awards at the 26th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards ceremony held in Beverly Hills on Monday, November 21, 2016. The first national tour of MOTOWN THE MUSICAL won for Best Playwright (Motown Founder Berry Gordy), Best Choreography (Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adam), Best Costumes (ESosa), and Best Sound (Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook).
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL features staging by Schele Williams, choreography by Patricia Wilcox (A Night with Janis Joplin) and Warren Adams (Toy Story), scenic design by David Korins (Bring It On: The Musical, Annie), costume design by Tony Award® nominee ESosa (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, “Project Runway”), lighting design by Tony Award® winner Natasha Katz (Once, Sister Act), sound design by Tony Award® nominee Peter Hylenski (Rock of Ages, The Scottsboro Boys), projection design by Daniel Brodie (Aladdin), hair and wig design by Charles LaPointe (Memphis) and casting by Wojcik | Seay Casting.
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is produced by Tony Award® winning producer Kevin McCollum (Rent, In the Heights, Avenue Q), Chairman and CEO of SONY Music Entertainment Doug Morris and Motown founder Berry Gordy, and in association with Work Light Productions.
The performance schedule for MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm.
For tickets or more information about the Los Angeles engagement of MOTOWN THE MUSICAL, please visit the official website for Hollywood Pantages Theatre: www.HollywoodPantages.com.