Motown: The Musical

Tickets from $87  Buy Tickets


Photo: Joan Marcus Review
There’s dancing in the streets of Manhattan again. 41st Street to be exact, the home of the Nederlander Theater where the crowd-pleasing “Motown the Musical” has resurfaced, 18 months after its initial departure from the Big Apple. And now, led by the ultradynamic Chester Gregory as Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., who really holds the piece together, this slightly revised version (part of the show’s national tour) seems to have more energy and bonhomie than before.

Yes, the show is still a bit self-serving and the book (credited to Gordy) is riddled with ridiculous omissions, chronological mistakes, and clichéd dialogue that can make you cringe. But if you love the songs that came from this legendary record label, it’s all ultimately a bit hard to resist.

The autobiographical story traces 45 years in Gordy’s life, bookended by the now-classic 1983 TV special that celebrated the label and which reunited such stars as Gordy’s best friend, Smokey Robinson (played here smoothly by Jesse Nager), Marvin Gaye (the passionate and soulful Jarran Muse), and Michael Jackson (portrayed as a young singer on my night by the truly sensational Leon Outlaw, Jr.). Long estranged from many of his former proteges, Gordy initially refuses to attend the show, and essentially relives his life sometime while pondering whether to reconsider. (Spoiler alert: he shows up!)

Under Charles Randolph Wright’s direction, the show’s 80-minute first act has many lively moments, including the triumph of Motown’s first number one song, “My Guy,” a mega-hit for Mary Wells (the fabulous Marina Sykes), and some poignant ones too, as Motown’s artists and executives face racism and prejudice both in their native Detroit and down South. But the going never gets too heavy for too long, as the script swiftly moves from scene to scene (aided immeasurably by David Korins’ simple if effective sets and Daniel Brodie’s projection design).

Many of those scenes, naturally, involve Gordy’s professional and personal relationship with Diana Ross (captured with exquisite essence by Allison Semmes) – although some of the real details have been heavily bowdlerized. (It’s also interesting how closely some of the story actually matches “Dreamgirls”.) Luckily, the sensational Semmes gets many of the show’s best moments, both dramatically and musically, and makes the most of them, including an unpredictable audience participation segment as she performs Ross’ first solo hit “Reach Out and Touch.”

She also gets to wear many of ESosa’s gorgeous costumes, which are a sight to behold throughout the show on the hard-working and supremely talented ensemble of over 20 performers, who are called on to play such groups as the Marvellettes, Temptations, Four Tops, along with a wide variety of musical superstars, and real-life friends and colleagues of Gordy.

Ok, so I have to admit I didn’t really want “Motown” back, it’s far from all I need to get by, but it’s definitely a happening! You can shop around for a “better” show, but not many at which you’ll have more fun!
By Brian Scott Lipton

Visit the Site

Chester Gregory, Allison Semmes, Jesse Nager, Jarran Muse

Open/Close Dates
Opening 7/21/2016
Closing 7/31/2016

Preview Open/ Preview Close Dates
Preview Opening 7/12/2016
Closing Open-ended

Box Office

Theatre Info
Nederlander Theatre
208 West 41st Street
New York, NY 10036