It’s What’s In The Grooves That Counts
Last night, I had the pleasure of witnessing Motown the Musical debut at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East
Lansing. As someone who grew up with Motown at home, I have plenty of memories of dancing in the living room to Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson (to name a few of my favorite artists). I was excited to see the music I had grown up with come to life on stage. I’m pleased to tell you that last night’s performance blew me away.
The show opens with a punch, starting out with a medley of some of the Four Tops and The Temptations biggest hits. For the next two hours, the cast continues to wow with big solo acts and fun group numbers, incorporating a good amount of humor, sass and audience engagement into the show; all that Motown is truly about.
It’s important to note that the script is well-written and incorporates several major storylines: Motown’s struggle as an independent label trying to break into a severely segregated industry; the Civil Rights Movement and the volatile times of the 60s and 70s; and the story of Barry Gordy and Diana Ross’ personal and professional relationship over the years.
Everything feels authentic, especially the impressions of well-known stars. From Smokey Robinson’s light, breathy voice to Diana Ross’ big-eyed, diva attitude, the cast makes you truly believe that your favorite Motown stars are performing on stage.
The costumes and the sets lend glamour to the show, giving it that “wow” factor. Short, strappy, sparkly dresses adorn The Supremes during their later performances, while the famous Ed Sullivan Show board and Copacabana sign bring touches of nostalgia.
Two notable show-stealers also happen to be the youngest members of the cast, including Leon Outlaw, Jr. and J.J. Batteast. Both boys play some of Motown’s most famous stars in their early years, including Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. A crowd favorite was clearly The Jackson Five’s hit I Want You Back, bringing audience members to their feet to sing and dance along.
At the end of the night, I walked away with a huge grin on my face. The best thing about this show is that it reminds you just what Motown music is all about; making music that speaks to the soul. No matter what year you were born, Motown the Musical will pull you in and make you never want to leave.
Motown the Musical is running from March 15-20 at The Wharton Center. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit whartoncenter.com