The Motown sound roared into Chicago’s Oriental Theater Thursday night for the opening of Motown the Musical—electrifying the souled-out crowd.
The Tony award winning show--in town, fresh from NYC, on the first stop of its national tour--arrived in high style with a red carpet reception which had the who’s who of Chicago media elbowing their way for prime spots to interview the stars of the show and the real life Motown legends.
High on the list of celebs was the man himself, Berry Gordy, founder of Motown and his good friend, business partner and Motown megastar, Smokey Robinson--both men in the Windy City for the big event.
The loud buzz and large crowds both inside and outside of the theater was the harbinger of what was ahead.
Motown the Musical is the amazing true tale of an American dream. It tells the story of Berry Gordy, a featherweight boxer from the "Motor City," who rises to the stratosphere of the pop music world with his "Motown Records" recording 79 of the records in the Billboard Top Ten between 1960 and 1969.
Although, I did not see the Broadway show, I can't imagine how it could have been any better than the production that came to Chicago.
The show, itself, provides a non-stop evening of high-energy, red hot entertainment for its entire two and a half hour run that showcases the greats and great moments from music's glory days of the 60's and 70's--with flashbacks to 1938 and ahead to 1983.
Motown's greatest stars come alive on stage with the likes of Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations and countless others. Forgotten moments from the past come roaring back to the present as the "Jackson 5" belts out "ABC" and The Supremes put together favorite after favorite including "A Breath Taking Guy."
The entire cast, is spot-on starting with the outstanding performances of Chicago native, Allison Semmes as Diana Ross; Clifton Oliver as Berry Gordy and Nicholas Christopher as Smokey Robinson. Jarran Muse (also part of the original Broadway Motown) captures the essence of Marvin Gaye from his shy uptight beginnings to his coming of age.
Leon Outlaw Jr. performs an amazing triple-play as the young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Reed Lorenzo Shannon brings the house down as the young Michael Jackson--but that wasn't all--he also stars as little Berry and little Stevie--an amazing actor and one to watch.
The costume designs by Esosa, alone are well worth the price of admission. David Korins' scenic design is the perfect backdrop to tell the story behind the story through video projections that fill in the history of the times from the highs to the lows (Martin Luther King and JFK assassinations).
Nobody, can sum up the Motown phenomena better than Berry Gordy who says, " At Motown, we called ourselves a family and we were--a big family."
And just as families have their good times and bad times, their riffs and their problems, Motown was not immune. As it grew beyond anyone's wildest imagination, it eventually caused some splits, lawsuits and finally was sold. But in the end the "family" prevailed and was reunited for a glorious moment in 1983 at the Motown 25 celebration.
And now, reunited once again--with Motown the Musical--a story that is just as amazing today as it was then.
Motown The Musical continues through August 9th at the Oriental Theatre, 24 West Randolph. Tickets at 800-775-2000, at all Broadway in Chicago box offices and online.
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