Cedric Neal will star as Motown founder Berry Gordy alongside Lucy St. Louis as Diana Ross in the UK premiere of Tony Award-winning hit Motown The Musical next year.
The West End cast was announced yesterday at an exclusive launch event at The Hospital Club, where Gordy, director Charles Randolph-Wright and producer Kevin McCollum joined host Lenny Henry to talk about the musical’s forthcoming transatlantic journey.
Neal will play the role originated by Olivier Award nominee Brandon Victor Dixon on Broadway. While he’s performed on both sides of the Atlantic, the actor’s performance in Motown The Musical marks his return to the London stage following 2014’s The Gershwins’ Porgy And Bess at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
His co-star St. Louis will no doubt be hoping to give a Supreme performance as one of the acts Gordy discovered following her current role as Little Eva in the West End production of The Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.
Taking on the roles of other well-known Motown artists, who McCollum said were chosen for “the passion with which they approached the roles and for creating the essence [of the original performers]” are West End returnees Keisha Amponsa Banson (From Here To Eternity), Cleopatra Rey and Joshua Liburd (both The Book Of Mormon), and Aisha Jawando (Beautiful – The Carole King Musical).
The cast will also include Samuel Edwards, Brandon Lee Sears, Cherelle Williams, Cindy Belliot, Daniel Bailey, Edward Baruwa, Tanya Nicola Edwards, Eddie Elliot, Portia Harry and Simon Ray Harvey, with further casting still to be announced.
Featuring an incredible 50 Motown tracks, many of which, according to McCollum, “act as a narrative” for the show, Motown The Musical tells the story of featherweight boxer turned heavyweight musical mogul Gordy as he discovers and launches the careers of artists including Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye.
Gordy spoke at the launch about why he wanted to bring his story to life stage, explaining: “I wanted to tell the story of what Motown was all about. I wanted to tell the story of how it felt: the wins and the losses, the triumphs and disasters that happened along the way.”
Director Randolph-Wright, whose production has entertained audiences across America, has had the tough task of creating Gordy’s story on stage. Talking about the experience he said: “When I got the first script I thought it was going to be Nicholas Nickleby; it was four evenings of music. What we then decided to do was tell the story: his [Gordy’s] story, the journey of Motown. The thing that was so exciting was that, unlike other musicals, you had to give audiences room for their memory. Everyone is so connected to this music. I say it’s in my DNA, everyone says it. So how do you tell the Motown journey but also leave room for the audience’s journey? That’s the thing that we’ve discovered and I watch audiences all over the US go crazy for that.”
London audiences will have to wait until 11 February, when the musical begins previews, before they can go crazy for the Motown classics at the Shaftesbury Theatre. In preparation, theatre fans can book tickets for the production through us here.