Motown the Musical, coming to Manchester Opera House February 2019
- Credit: ©Tristram Kenton
Motown the Musical, a whirlwind dash through the unforgettable sounds of soul, showcases some of the most loved songs of a generation, wrapped around a story of struggle, success, disappointment and joy, says Kate Houghton
The story of Motown is the story of Berry Gordy Jr, and is based upon his 1994 autobiography, To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown. It starts with his song-writing success in 1957, when he co-wrote Reet Petite, which became a hit for Jackie Wilson (and again in 1986). He wrote for Wilson for another six years, but believed that the money was to be made in record producing – for which he needed to found his own recording studio and convinced his family to lend him $800 to do so. Concentrating on black artists and ‘black music’, he built a business that changed the face of music – and indeed pop culture – across the USA and the UK. To recognise just what a feat this was, it’s useful to know that Berry Gordy Jr (born in 1929) was also known as Berry Gordy III, the first Berry Gordy being the son of a plantation owner and one of his slaves.
The show is positively bouncing with energy from first breath to final curtain. It features over 50 songs, and you will know and be able to sing along to every one of them. Singing groups and solo stars audition, concerts are put on, tracks are laid down - just about every way you can imagine the songs can be presented, they are. We meet the big names from Diana Ross and the Supremes and Smokey Robinson to and The Jackson 5, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and The Temptations and, of course, the dozens of names only the aficionados will recall, that the rest of us have forgotten, or never known, such as The Marvelettes and The Velvelettes. You’ll know their music though, without a doubt.
And oh, the brilliance of the performances! The casting must have been both a joy and a nightmare. Every man, woman and child (wow, the amazing Michal Jackson!) on stage is a wonder, with a voice that will take you back to the dancefloor and win you all over again.
This huge and talented cast will lead you from the late 1950’s right to the 1980s, with spot on renditions of songs from Please Mr Postman to Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, from I Heard It Through The Grapevine to My Girl, Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand), My Guy, Happy Birthday, Dancing in the Street and I Want You Back.
Berry doesn’t have it all sing song and roses. As his stars become bigger and more well-known, they jump ship to more mainstream labels, leaving him with both financial issues and dismay that his carefully nurtured dream is crumbling around him. His own successes and disappointments are mirrored in the changing times, as America itself goes through massive change in both law and society. We see the devastation caused by the assassination of Martin Luther King, the rolling waves triggered by the Vietnam War. In this time of massive change, of protests and of racism almost impossible to comprehend even in today’s climate, Gordy’s music shone through and this show is a glorious celebration of a man and of that music that will have you breathless and on your feet with delight.
Motown the Musical runs from 26 February – 23 March 2019 www.atgtickets.com/shows/motown-the-musical/opera-house-manchester
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