When a theatre is packed you know there are great expectations from the audience and tonight at the Opera House Blackpool there was a real buzz in the air as people took to their seats eagerly awaiting to see what this juke box musical had to offer.
We are not disappointed, from start to finish the show is crammed with over 60 hits from Motown with the Four Tops and 'I Can't Help Myself' to the amazing Diana Ross and 'Reach Out and Touch' plus a whole host of other fabulous artists such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Jackson Five and Stevie Wonder. Obviously there just isn't the time in a show to perform fully all the songs but the medleys are performed superbly with precision choreography. (Choreographed by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams) The immaculately suited Four Tops and The Temptations are reminiscent of the day and along with the glamour of Diana Ross and The Supremes all add to a dazzling show filled with dance and song. (Costume design Emilio Sosa) But that is not what the Motown Musical is only about, it tells the story of the conception of Motown and its creator Berry Gordy. Beginning at a party to celebrate 25 years in the business the story unfolds in flashback style and we witness the highs and lows, the first signings to the label, the arguments within, the difficulties faced in a changing world of racism and politics. Thankfully although sobering, the show does not focus too much on the downside of the era and the high energy of the fabulous cast’s performances ensure an uplifting experience.
Berry Gordy is performed by Edward Baruwa is quite simply 'Motown' , giving an absolutely amazing performance in both acting and singing and appearing so relaxed as he embraces the role. Diana Ross, a one time partner of Gordy, is tonight performed by understudy Olivia Hibbert who gave it her all and superbly carried it off, not an easy task portraying such an iconic figure. She made contact with the audience coming off stage as she sang 'Reach Out and Touch' and there was literally a 'touch' as two members are encouraged to join her singing the song.
Smokey Robinson (Nathan Lewis) is enthusiastic and immediately likeable with great stage presence. Marvin Gaye (Shak Gabbidon-Williams wows with his audience interaction and fabulous vocals). Young Michael Jackson brings loud cheers from the audience with his performance and I apologise for not identifying him this evening of the four youngsters who perform this role. Stevie Wonder is the only original signing to the label who is still with Motown and Daniel Haswell portrays him very well.
Often with a large cast especially with dance, scenery can make things overcrowded, but this show makes clever use of projections (Daniel Brodie) and excellent lighting (Natasha Katz), whilst on the occasions physical scenery is used it appears seamlessly and enhances, (David Korins). A musical would not be a musical without a band and under MD Griff Johnson the sounds recreated are brilliant and from the first notes the many iconic songs are instantly recognisable.
Motown has a long history, the records of many artists are still played daily on the radio, a two and half hour show is not long enough to give it full justice and occasionally things become a little hectic and songs crammed in, but it delivers and the standing ovations are witness to that. Motown lives on...... and continues at the Opera House Blackpool until 31st August 2019, don't miss out! https://www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk/whats-on/motown-the-musical
Reviewer: Lorna Weekes
Reviewed: 27th August 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★★