To be frank, I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I entered the Orpheum Theatre on December 16th, a Tuesday night, to see Motown the musical. The only thing people provided me about the show was how much they loved the music. I tried searching for a bit of story in the playbill, but ended up getting lost in a section of songs, which were written in alphabetical order if I might add! The musical started off with an explosion of music that felt like a roller coaster launching back to 1960’s. The entire show turned out to be a long, but absolute blast!
The story revolved around the life of Berry Gordy, a record producer and song-writer. It mainly focused on his partnership with Smokey Robinson to create Motown, a record company in Hitsville, Detroit. Through his years, he discovered artists such as the Temptations, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, and many more! The entire performance created nostalgia in so many audience members that, when they recognized anything, they would give a loud “Woot woot!”. It seemed everybody was captivated by the memories of the era. After seeing the show, my grandma told me how she knew every song that was played. I was never feeling critical about the plot because it truly felt like a highly entertaining history lesson!
The acting was overall well done, and considering the rather quick pacing, it was impressive to not run into any dialogue bumps for the most part. The relationships between each character seemed genuine and the actors took their individual characters with such confidence that, when disregarding their appearance, they could have been easily mistaken for the actual people!
The music was, as I expected, stupendous. The beats never got off their solid rhythms and the instruments were played magnificently, but perhaps too loud. At some points I couldn’t understand the singers because the song felt so crowded with drums, orchestras, and groups of people singing on stage. The solos and the duets were beautifully sung and always seemed cleaner without a chorus. Michael Jackson had incredible talent, and the entire house went wild when he entered the stage for the first time.
I must commend light designer Natasha Katz for giving the show it’s true funk! With bright contrasting colors, the lighting evoked the past and brought it back to life. Multiple beams covered in screen panels shifted across the stage to create new locations and add more variety. Surprisingly I noticed, on the main floor, there seemed to be one tech guy in the light or sound booth. The costumes were accurate to the 1960’s. There were many different colored suits, and the most memorable dress had to be Diana Ross’s red dress when she left Gordy’s company.
Motown was a great performance, but it was also a draining one. By intermission I felt incredibly tired. The only thing that kept me awake was the rest of the three hour performance. I took many looks around the theatre to see people bouncing up and down in their seats. When I left the theater there were some drumming street performers and I noticed the fast rhythms in Motown were related to what they were doing.