Touring – reviewed at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre
Guest reviewer: Carla Whittaker
The smash-hit West End show Motown The Musical has been playing to sell-out crowds at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre.
The production tells a story of Berry Gordy (Edward Baruwa) and the roller coaster of rags to riches of a journey for the famous Motown record label which launched the professional careers of the timeless favourites of Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Dianna Ross, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson plus many more.
The audience is taking on a journey through Motown’s history from its beginnings when Gordy signs his first act Smokey Robinson. We see, the label grows with the signing of more acts having countless hits. It is the signing of the young Diana Ross who captures the heart of Gordy. During one of the performances Diana asks a member of the audience if they would like to join her on stage; one lady volunteers and both gives a fabulous rendition of ‘Reach Out’.
The orchestra and musical director accompanies the cast in 50-plus Motown hits including ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’, ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, ‘I’ll be There’, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, ‘My Girl’, ‘Dancing in the Street’ plus more have the audience going down memory lane; dancing, singing, whooping and clapping.
For me, a highlight of the show is the energy, passion and enthusiasm of the young Michael Jackson who is outstanding to watch and receives a standing ovation at the end.
The production is perfect. It is sleek, and polished, using clever projection and archive footage of iconic events such as the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King really sweep the audience into the nostalgia and right back into all things Motown in order to set context to the issues facing black musical artists during the Motown years.
The onstage chemistry between Gordy and Diana is electric, delivering outstanding, faultless performances. The choreography is sharp, and the creatives have clearly gone to great lengths to ensure the re-creation of classic Motown moves to show case the individual acts. The costumes are incredibly, filled with glitz, glamour and clearly no expense spared to recreate Motown outfits including the shiny suits of the Temptations and the red dress of Diana Ross.
For me, the show was much more than a celebration of Motown, it highlighted issues such as acceptance, racism, strained relationships, acceptance and the problems faced with fame and fortune which often musicians face. Motown the Musical did not disappoint. It was fast paced, professional and took me and my friend down an entertaining journey which left us leaving the theatre dancing and singing in the street!
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