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Motown The Musical

Published 9 March 2016

What’s it all about?

The title tells you everything you need to know. This is the Broadway hit that charts the history of arguably the most influential record label of all time, the stars it launched and the man behind it, Berry Gordy.

Who’s in it?

Cedric Neal, who you might have caught dazzling as Sportin’ Life in the Regent’s ParkOpen Air Theatre’s Porgy And Bess in 2014, plays Gordy, the former auto plant worker who’s driven by music. His Gordy is a passionate man who doesn’t lack self-belief, a dreamer who wants to entertain the world, ignore – rather than break down – boundaries and is devastated when the stars he nurtures leave him behind. In a show packed with winning, recognisable hits, his performance of the original song Can I Close The Door (On Love) is tingle-inducingly outstanding.

Were it not for Neal’s nuance, the press night performance could well have been stolen by Eshan Gopal, the performer playing the younger versions of Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. If he’d given that performance 50 years ago, Gordy would surely have signed him.

What should I look out for?

Esosa’s costumes. More specifically the glorious suits worn by The Temptations and The Four Tops which, in a word, are magnificent. Or, in a different word, cummerbunderrific.

Also, the choreography by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams that feels as authentic as the race riots and Vietnam protests that run alongside the action.

Who was in the first night crowd?

Berry Gordy. And Smokey Robinson. And Mary Wilson. It really doesn’t matter who else was there, does it?

In a nutshell?

More recognisable chart-toppers than you can shake a millionaire pop star at; I Got The Feelin’ Motown The Musical’s a hit.

What’s being said on Twitter?

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Will I like it?

Do you like the music of Motown? Marvin Gaye? Stevie Wonder? Diana Ross? The Jackson 5? If you’re answering yes, chances are this is the musical for you. It fires Motown hits at you like a tuneful machinegun; some get a full airing, more come in snippets as there are just so many to fit in to an evening of theatre.

The story here, written by Gordy, is very much the vehicle by which we get to the songs and, one might suspect, is heavily weighted in Gordy’s favour when it comes to disagreements and broken relationships. But in Neal it has a central performer who finds the emotional truth in a singular man with a drive to succeed, and in the songs it has one of the greatest catalogues of pop music with which you could hope to spend an evening.

I suspect I won’t be the only person to say it, but Motown The Musical will have you Dancing In The Street as you leave the theatre.

Motown The Musical is booking at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 18 February. You can book tickets through us here.

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