You don't have to be a fan of sixties pop music to enjoy Motown The Musical, the exuberant, lively new show at Chicago's Oriental Theatre through August 9th. Lovers of the "Motown sound" will be in seventh heaven while newcomers will probably be hooked even before the end of Act I.
The show starts off at such a fast pace you wonder how they can keep it up for two and a half hours. There are wonderful, almost frantic renditions of the Jackson Five's, "ABC", The Supremes'. "A Breath Taking Guy", Marvin Gaye's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and the Four Tops', "Baby I Need Your Lovin'". And how did this all come to be? That's the story told in a sketchy book that highlights the career of Barry Gordy who went from a featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and countless others.
The cast is amazing as many play two or three characters singing over fifty songs. Clifton Oliver as Barry Gordy, Nicholas Christopher as Smokey Robinson, Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye and the talented Allison Semmes as Diana Ross are all quite convincing.
I'm not big on audience participation, but when Ms.Semmes sings "Reach Out and Touch" and asks the audience to join hands and sing along, the entire audience becomes one, in a rare display of mutual affection.
Motown The Musical brings more color to a Chicago stage than I've seen in sometime. The costume designs by Esosa are stunning with combinations that almost take your breath away. David Korins' scenic design fits the fast pace and wide breadth of the shows locations and the use of video projections keeps the audience well informed of the historical events of the time period.
The blending of soul and pop music was a cultural phenomenon and although treated in a somewhat cursory manner in this show, it does get the message across and it's a wonderful evening of entertainment for all ages.
Opening night (5/8/2014) was particularly memorable when the real Barry Gordy and a trim and fine looking Smokey Robinson took to the stage during the curtain calls to wild applause from the audience.
Motown The Musical plays through August 9th at the Oriental Theatre, 24 West Randolph. Tickets at 800-775-2000.
There are a flock of new openings coming up - "Buyer & Cellar", the off-Broadway hit coming to the Broadway Playhouse; Chris Lemmon remembering his Dad, Jack, at The Royal George; Mary Zimmerman's "The White Snake" at the Goodman. Don't miss the reviews. Check the box on the right side of your screen "Create Subscription" and you'll get an automatic e-mail when the reviews are posted.
Filed under: Theatre Reviews