Motown The Musical,
***** 5 Stars.
“Motown the Musical, is West End Theatre shining at its Brilliant Best!”
Detroit Michigan, home of the Motown sound since the 1960’s producing hits for The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder among so many others. One man started the dream factory, Berry Gordy and using his autobiography “The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown” and the legendary Motown Catalogue the story that defined a generation, That story is now a full scale stage musical.
This show is still enjoying a west end run at the Shaftsbury Theatre and now makes its only Scottish Stop at the grand Edinburgh Playhouse and what a treat of a musical it is. Many of us only recognise the music of Motown and not the struggle for racial equality and acceptance that pervade America through the sixties. What this production does wonderfully well is put Berry at the centre of the story as the world shifts and grows around him. This musical is about one mans journey to spread the love of music and the family he build from the singers and musicians that he worked with, all set to the background of social and political change of 1960’s and 1970’s America.
Playing Berry is the astonishing Edward Baruwa who delivers a tour de force performance in both acting and vocal with a honey rich voice. Baruwa is as assured breaking the fourth wall talking to the audience as he is delivering the raw emotion on the discovery of the assassination of President Kennedy. Matching him in a powerful performance as “Diana Ross” is Karis Anderson. The recreation of Diana’s break through solo concert in Las Vegas of the early 70’s is a pure theatrical moment of triumph as members of the audience are encouraged on stage to join in a rousing rendition of “reach out and touch” which reverberates around the auditorium.
What sets this musical apart is the way in which it engages with the social political changes of the time, thanks to David Korins Scenic design and Daniel Brodie’s simply outstanding projection design the audience are transported across America and its history featuring video footage of Dr Martin Luther King, The Kennedys, the changing presidents, the Vietnam war as well as provided the backdrop to the location of Hitsville USA. There is truly no other musical in the UK that delivers the quality of spectacle that Motown the musical does and the fact this is touring production is an even greater achievement.
This production features no less than 63 numbers from the Motown catalogue (although many are cut into mash up and few are just snippets) and all are delivered in style by Musical Director Griff Johnson and his 10 piece band, there is no better sound that the music of Motown being delivered by those most passionate about it. Director Charles Randolph -Wright has delivered a show which is never mawkish but a joyful celebration of period in time sadly consigned to the history books. He does it while keeping focus on Berry and the emotional toll it took.
As the show comes to a close with a recreation of the famous Motown 25th Anniversary concert, it becomes clear that love was the centre of the story, love for music, love for humanity and the joy of all those special memories which continues to shine across the decades.
Motown The Musical is not a jukebox musical its something far better, an engaging story, stunning sets, costume, performances and musicians combine to deliver a stellar evening on Stage and with the Playhouse hosting the only Scottish dates, you better make a beeline for the box office and see for yourself why the Playhouse is the home of the west end. Motown the Musical is indeed West End Theatre shining at its Brilliant Best.
Motown the Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse, Runs until Saturday 8th December, for tickets go to: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/motown-the-musical/edinburgh-playhouse/