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Theatre review: Motown the Musical at the National Arts Centre

By Asim B. on July 27, 2017

It began with a bang and ended with a bang. Motown The Musical was one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a long time. From the talented cast, to the classic hits, to the stage and lighting; everything about the show had me transported to the heyday of the music that influenced America. Even everyone around me was swaying to the beat of every song.

Photo from the National Art Centre's website.

Photo from the National Art Centre’s website.

The story spans from 1938 to 1983 and follows the life of the legendary Berry Gordy, covering his influences, passions, and journey of taking his love of music and how he turned it to a phenomenon loved by millions. As the founder of Motown, he helped launch the careers of The Temptations, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder, to just name a few.

Personally I was blown away by the two younger cast members, Raymond Davis Jr. and CJ Wright. If you close your eyes, you’ll swear you’re hearing a young Michael Jackson belting his greatest hits live on stage.

It was a nice touch to have Diana Ross (Allison Semmes) walk off stage in character and ask various audience members to join her in singing a song. It was a small touch that added another level of immersion for the audience.

Photo from the National Art Centre's website.

Photo from the National Art Centre’s website.

Among all the fantastic musical numbers is a story that tells the difficulties faced by African Americans during a tumultuous time in U.S. history. From barriers like segregated seating for audiences during live performances, the refusal of store owners to deal with black sales staff selling Motown records, lack of radio play on stations, shootings during live performances, to being pigeonholed into singing one type of music, are all eloquently covered through melodic performances.

I was enamoured by the depth of talent on the cast and their seemingly effortless ability to transport me back in time as if I was there in person to hear the original singers performing their greatest hits. There are over 50 songs to enjoy such as: Baby Love, My Girl, Please Mr. Postman, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, I Want You Back, ABC, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, and Do You Love Me.

Photo from the National Art Centre's website.

Photo from the National Art Centre’s website.

This show is an epic journey in time that lets you peek behind the curtain and see how The Jackson 5 were discovered, how Diana found fame after The Supremes, and how Motown tried to hold on to it’s talent and top place while other recording companies began luring away it’s stars one by one.


Motown the Musical is at the National Arts Centre until July 30, 2017 with matinee performances on Saturday and Sunday. For additional information and to purchase tickets, please visit https://nac-cna.ca/en/event/13800.


 

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