The actors in MOTOWN THE MUSICAL sang and danced their hearts out victoriously and vivaciously during the upbeat national touring company musical at its premiere opening at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago. If you love the diversified sounds and songs from the Motown repertoire of historical hits, this is definitely the “go-to” show of the summer season through August 9.
In almost three hours of non-stop Motown songs (save an intermission), MOTOWN THE MUSICAL shares the American dream story of its founder –Berry Gordy - from his simple Detroit, Michigan upbringing through his featherweight boxing years to his rise as music mogul to the likes of Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and so many more top Afro-American singers and groups of 20th century music.
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL also shares the behind-the-scenes historical events that impacted and improved civil rights equality for all Americans, black and white. Motown shattered barriers, shaped millions of American lives and made us all move to the same beat.
The music and the message all come together in a tightly- directed epic extravaganza by Charles Randolph-Wright. How he is able to condense more than 50 Motown classic hit songs together with the real-life rise-and-fall stories of Gordy, his major Motown singers, racial inequities and the civil rights movement all together is at times overwhelming to the viewers’ senses. It’s sometimes too much in too short a time span, but the general response displayed by the majority of theatre-goers upon leaving the show is euphoria.
Some of the songs you will definitely recognize are “Reach Out (I’ll be There),” “Baby Love,” “Dancing in the Street,” “ “Please, Mr. Postman,” “My Girl,” “Lonely Teardrops,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,””Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me.” And by the end of the evening, you’ll be sure to “Reach Out and Touch” the hands of other theatre-goers. It’s definitely that kind of performance.
It’s difficult to give top honors to the leading ladies and gentlemen without mentioning the 27 amazing Ensemble members who constantly share the stage. However, the key players are Clifton Oliver (Berry Gordy), Allison Semmes (Diana Ross), Nicholas Christopher (Smokey Robinson), Jarran Muse (Marvin Gaye and Leon Outlaw, Jr. and Reed L. Shannon ) who share the roles of young Berry, Steve Wonder and Michael Jackson.
Kudos to the producers – Kevin McCollum, Doug Morris and Berry Gordy himself – who are bringing MOTOWN THE MUSICAL on the national tour, beginning at our own Oriental Theatre (24 West Randolph). They have hand-selected a terrific team: choreographers Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams; scenic designer David Korins; costume designer Esosa; lighting designer Natasha Katz, sound designer Peter Hylenski; project designer Danial Brodie; wig designer Charles LaPointe and casting company Telsey + Company.
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL’s arrangements and orchestrations are by Grammy and Tony Award nominee Ethan Popp and dance arrangements by Zane Mark.
The performance schedule is:
Tuesday-Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Saturday Evenings at 8 p.m.
Tickets for MOTOWN THE MUSICAL range from $30 - $128. Tickets are available at all Broadway in Chicago Box Offices (24 West Randolph St., 151 West Randolph Street, 18 West Monroe Street and 175 East Chestnut). The Chicago Ticket Line is (800_ 775-2000) and online at the Broadway in Chicago website Group sales for 10 or more people can be ordered at (312) 977-1710.
Photos: Joan Marcus