Motown The Musical instantly fills the Orpheum theater in downtown Minneapolis with sound and energy. This show is a full body experience. From the music that rushes through you, making any audience member want to move their feet, to the heart warming/wrenching moments around creating change and standing up for racial justice. Motown The Musical leaves nothing to complain about besides some minor technical difficulties and a stumble here and there, which can be attributed to it being opening night.
This musical tells the story of the Motown record label’s rise to the top from 1938 to 1983, and touches on how difficult that specific time in history was for black people. This made the Motown musical movement even more crucial. The entire show is centered around music and famous performers, as well as the social construct of the time.
The cast was simply amazing, not only were they all spectacular performers, but they also characterized true musical legends perfectly. Motown The Musical was a refreshing change from the nearly all white cast of White Christmas, which was the last show to tour at the Orpheum theater. Motown The Musical was less shallow and really left you full of emotion. All of the characters in this show were over the top just like the music of Motown. Allison Semmes acted the part of Diana Ross and she definitely did her justice. The part of Berry Gordy was played by Julius Thomas who kept his energy throughout the entire show and was a key player. Reed L. Shannon is definitely worth mentioning as a standout in the show, playing young Michael Jackson (among other child roles). His performances of ABC and I Want You Back, along with the four actors making up the rest of The Jackson 5, was a near perfect match to videos of The Jackson 5 performances from 1970.
Another piece of creating the fantastic spectacle that is Motown The Musical is the use of lights in the show to create a moving and abstract set. This style was very fitting to the performance/music video style of the time, specifically the iconic 70s effects. Costumes and big hair were definitely needed in this show, to match the big music, and larger than life performers. Motown The Musical delivered. The costumes were spot on and the large wigs that were used couldn’t be missed.
Motown has such a rich history and it was clear the audience knew it. Audience nostalgia really added to the high energy levels of this show. There were definitely crowd favorites, which made for cheering, dancing in the seats, and even singing along. Audience participation was also a big part of building the audience to cast relationship. When Allison Semmes sang her big show stopper, “Reach Out and Touch” and got the whole audience involved it was a truly beautiful moment, especially in light of America’s current struggle against police brutality around racial justice.
You can’t help but instantly smile at the true power of Motown. This musical begins with energy and ends with emotional passion. Motown The Musical is a must see for people from all walks of life. Whether you are experiencing Motown for the first time or lived through it yourself, you will fall in love with these legends and the music they made.