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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

Motown the Musical - A Wonderful Show

Shelly and I saw Motown the Musical at the National Theater in Washington, DC in December 2015. Motown The Musical is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more. Some great performers portrayed these artists. Josh Tower portrays Gordy, Allison Semmes is Diana Ross, and Jesse Nager plays Smokey. I felt like I was seeing and hearing the actual artists.

The show started off with a medley of songs from the Four Tops and Temptations at the 25th Motwon celebration at the Apollo Theater in 1983. It then portrays Berry Gordy's life as he emerged as a songwriter and founded and grew Motown in the late 1950's and through the 1960's and 1970's.

The music, of course, is fantastic. You see and hear portrayals of some of the greatest music of our time, from Smokey Robonson and the Miracles, the Supremes (Smokey and Diana Ross were neighbors in Detroit!), Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye, to the Jackson 5, the Commodores. and Rick James. The music had me singing, and the dancing had me shimmying in my seat.

It shows the struggle blacks had getting themselves and their music respected and played in the white music industry. It touches on the racial tensions and struggle for acceptance, the Vietnam War, and how all this shaped their msuic and their messages. It depcits the difficullty Gordy had in retaining the Motown talent as the larger record companies lured away the artists with large sums of money. Lastly, it focuses on the Berry Gordy - Diana Ross relationship and how this shaped them both. The show ends with all the artists reuniting for Motown's 25th anniversary show at the Apollo Theater in 1983.

The cast engages the audience to sing, wave, hold hands, and clap. Diana Ross spends several moments in the audience, and even gets several excited members to sing with her.

The show was over two hours, and jam-packed with music and dancing. I learned a lot about the history of Motown, the struggles black people had in the record business, the relationship of Gordy and Ross, and the love the artists had for each other that kept them bound together during the turbulent 60's and 70's. It's an excellent show and well worth seeing. Enjoy!

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