Detroit, Michigan, is known for a lot of different things; however, two distinct monuments will always be engraved into the blueprint of

American history: Ford Motor Company and Motown Record Corporation. And even though Ford is the only company remaining, it’s the Motown sound that will live forever.

Performers in “Motown the Musical” include re-enactors of The Temptations.
Photo: Joan Marcus

Founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. as Tamla Records on January 12, 1959, and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960, Motown launched so many singing careers into the stratosphere of music history and even today, people around the world recognize the infamous letter “M” and know that it represents some soulful sounds that changed the history of American music!

“Motown the Musical” is the true American dream story of the greatest record label of all time! The musical with the distinctive sound was cleverly orchestrated so that you can experience the life of Motown’s founder Berry Gordy Jr (Kenneth Mosley) and the story behind some of the great hits from heavyweights such as Diana Ross (Trencye), Smokey Robinson (Justin Reynolds), Marvin Gaye (Matt Manuel) and so many others who made this well-tuned team so successful.

The evening began with Berry Gordy, Jr. not wanting to attend Motown’s 25th Year Anniversary Tribute to him. “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever” was originally televised in 1983 and was produced by Suzanne de Passe for Motown Records. The program was taped before a live audience at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and was broadcasted on NBC, however with all of the love that the former artists from Motown wanted to share with him, Berry Gordy and his ego almost killed this spectacular event.

After discussing his feelings as to why he didn’t want to attend the gala event, the musical shifts and takes you on a journey of Gordy’s reminiscing about how he went from featherweight boxer to a heavyweight music mogul. We learn about what made him decide to be the Joe Louis of music and the pride of the Black community.

The Soundtrack of Our Youth

Motown gave us the soundtracks of our youth with Hitsville U.S.A. This is where the sound of soul music was crafted with an ear towards pop appeal. However, to churn out hits after hits, Berry Gordy, Jr. implemented The Motown production process, which has been described as a factory-like method.

Photo: Joan Marcus

Gordy begins this music mogul corporation by signing unknown singers and groups who most record labels would overlook; however, using the Ford Motor Company assembly line process, he developed a complete training manual that produced the “Motown Sound” which facilitated in developing the ultimate stars like Mary Wells, Martha Reeves, The Jackson 5 / Michael Jackson, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Four Tops and The Supremes.

This included “artist development” in which the acts on the Motown label were meticulously groomed, dressed and choreographed for live performances. It also included rigorous Friday “quality meetings” with a veto method to ensure that only the best material and performances would be released.

Throughout the sensational backstory of how Berry Gordy, Jr. built his Motown brand, we got to hear the music of our youth with more than 40 classic hits such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “My Girl,” “Mr. Postman,” and “Where Did Our Love Go.” At times the music seemed as though it was moving too fast to really enjoy the fullness of the song; nonetheless, the songs made you sing along and reminiscence about your past.

We watched this music giant and the Motown Family fight against the probabilities to fashion the soundtrack of transformation in America with songs such as “What’s Going On” and “War.”

This musical allows you to reach back and enjoy that soulful sound just like you were young again, and along the way, you get a chance to watch the first relationship of soul develop between Berry Gordy, Jr. and Diana Ross both professionally and personally. Trenyce who played Diana Ross was pitch perfect and she mesmerized us with her amazing singing throughout the musical. Her glamour and ability to make you feel you were actually listening and seeing the iconic legend was remarkable.

This musical delivered and will provide everything you would expect from a Motion show; however, we agreed that the women singers outperformed the men in singing, but the men of Motown stole the show with their famous Motown dance moves.

Director Charles Randolph-Wright gave us a towering stack of collective memorable hits with behind the scenes performances. This spectacular, exhilarating and jubilant musical allowed us to see why “Motown” is such a blockbuster musical with non-stop hits. While this show has ended, we highly recommend that you hurry to go see this musical whenever and wherever it plays again; the energy in the room is simply contagious!

October 3 – October 8, 2017

Directed by: Charles Randolph-Wright

Book by: Berry Gordy

Music by arrangement with Sony/ATV Music Publishing

The cast Includes:

Kenneth Mosley (Berry Gordy)

Trenyce (Diana Ross)

Justin Reynolds (Smokey Robinson)

Matt Manuel (Marvin Gaye)

Chase Phillips (Young Berry Gordy/Young Stevie Wonder/Young Michael Jackson)

Kai Calhoun (Young Berry Gordy/Young Stevie Wonder/Young Michael Jackson)

Nick Abbott (Swing)

Tracy Byrd (Ensemble)

Arielle Crosby (Ensemble)

Devin Holloway (Ensemble)

Quiana Holmes (Ensemble)

Kayla Jenerson (Ensemble)

King David Jones (Swing)

EJ King (Ensemble)

Brett Michael Lockley (Ensemble)

Jasmine Maslanova-Brown (Ensemble)

Rob McCaffrey (Ensemble)

Trey McCoy (Ensemble)

Alia Munsch (Ensemble)

Erick Patrick (Ensemble)

Eric Peters (Ensemble)

Isaac Saunders, Jr. (Ensemble)

Eran Scoggins (Swing)

Ayla Stackhouse (Swing)

Nya Trysha (Ensemble)

Cartreze Tucker (Ensemble)

Dre’ Woods (Ensemble)

Jamari Johnson Williams (Ensemble)

Nazarria Workman (Swing)

 

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