I think we all take for granted how prolific a music house Motown once was. The show is basically a big concert, the whole audience singing along to two and a half hours of hit after classic hit. In this behemoth of a show (26 songs!) there were a few numbers that were especially spectacular. The original piece “Hey Joe! (Black Like Me)” featuring Darius Kaleb. as a young Berry Gordy pulled my heart strings with its effervescent nostalgia and unabashed American and cultural pride. Kaleb is as cute as a button and has a spirit that can barely be contained in his little body. Another actor that I found superb was Valisia Lekae as Diana Ross. The way audience members acted during her big concert number “Reach out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” you would have thought that the queen herself was really on that stage, in all her big-haired glory. While we’re on the subject of eerily realistic portrayals, Bryan Terrell Clark, playing Marvin Gaye caused a communal audience swoon every time he entered a scene and especially whenever he opened his mouth to sing. And man oh man don’t even get me started on “What’s Goin’ on.” There was some truly wonderful character work inMotown, something that I find rare in musical theatre, and I really appreciated the attention to detail. The story spins a rich tale spanning from Gordy’s childhood in 1938 to the tumultuous 25th anniversary of the record label in 1983. It was lighthearted but political, full of heart and a whole lot of fun. My parents felt like they were kids again, unsurprising considering that Motown dominated so much of the charts for so long. And for me, certainly the most fun I’ve had at a show in a long, long time.
Contributed exclusively for MONOLODGE by Krista White