Feb 29th, 2016
Best bit: Watching a talented teen transform into superstar diva, Diana Ross
Any boring bits? The initial and final scenes of 'present day' (1983) Berry Gordy in his office aren't really contextualised enough to make us feel sympathetic to his rants.
Who would like it? Motown fans as well as those with an interest in music during the American Civil Rights era
Who wouldn't like it? Those who were expecting a more biographical musical
Morning after effect: Googling photos of young Diana Ross to marvel at the likeness between her and Motown star
Verdict: Three and a half stars out of five
You can tell Motown - The Musical has had a lot of time to practise before its West End debut. It was on Broadway for almost two years, it's currently on its second US-wide tour, and is due to return to Broadway later this year. This well-oiled jukebox musical is slicker than Berry Gordy's suits, delivering hit after hit to an entranced audience. In fact the production packs in 66 Motown hits into its two hour and 25 minute run time!
Fitting in all these top Motown tunes from the 1950s right through to the 1980s, plus a background to creator Berry Gordy's home life, his role in the company, and his relationship with Diana Ross, is no small feat! And those that are in it for the music will be left feeling very satisfied - not only are the vocals superb but the cast chosen to portray artists like Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and child-prodigy Michael Jackson are brilliantly convincing in their roles, and help the production gleam with star appeal.
If you're an avid fan of the music and genre you'll be in seventh heaven but if, like me, you're not too familiar with Berry Gordy and Motown as a whole, you may find yourself feeling like Motown's missed a couple of beats. The production glosses over the intricacies of Gordy's relationship with his artists, focussing on Diana Ross, while several crucial characters are given lines very sporadically making it hard to work out who is who.
I'm of course not expecting them to unpack almost 30 years of relationships into two hour-long acts, but perhaps a shorter narrative time frame would have allowed us to get a deeper understanding of Gordy's relationship with fewer, key artists, whist still looking forwards and back to treat us to the hits we're all there for. If however you're happy to let the history lesson slide, then you're in capable hands.
In it terms of delivering an evening of entertaining, world-class musical theatre, Motown most certainly provides! And with the inclusion of some of the most important events of America's Civil Rights era portraying a clear message on the transformative nature of music, I am sure it will continue to do so for many years to come.
Monday 29th February 2016
Shaftesbury Theatre, London
Find me on Twitter: @_londontheatre_
View our show pages for more information about Motown - The Musical, Shaftesbury Theatre.
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