This Motown mega hit which returns to Broadway for a limited engagement is more focused and concise than the show I remember. This plot follows the Barry Gordy and Diana Ross romance from beginning to end with all the perks in between. We learn things like why they called each other “Black”. We also learn how Motown got started and what an instrumental role Smokey Robinson played in the development and creation and success of the company. Gordy and Robinson were like brothers from another mother. Other plots are revealed as the book takes us from 1957 to 1983. We pass through such landmarks as JFK and MLK’s deaths. The ED Sullivan show, and the discovery of Little Stevie Wonder and the Jackson five. The show begins with the night of the 1983 tribute show for Motown 25 and Gordy refusing to go because he is bitter that many of the artists he helped create left him for greener pastures.
This show is not without show stopping numbers. It starts with a classic battle between the Four Tops and the
Temptations. Barry Gordy was played flawlessly by Chester Gregory, Diana Ross is channeled through the body of Allison Semmes. A very funny Smokey Robinson was played by Jesse Nager and little Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson was smashed by J.J, Batteast. The musical numbers are too many to mention but here are few of the best of the best: GET READY, SHOP AROUND, MY GUY, MY GIRL, WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO? , YOU’RE ALL I NEED TO SURVIVE, BALL OF CONFUSION, AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH, GOOD MORNING HEARTACHE, MONEY (THAT’S WHAT I WANT), I HEAR A SYMPHONY, WAR, WHAT’S GOING ON?, WHO’S LOVIN’ YOU?, MEDLEY OF THE JACKWON FIVE EARLY HITS. A MEDELY FROM THE NEWER MOTOWN ARTISTS LIKE RICK JAMES, TINA MARIE, THE COMMODORES.
The book is full of comic moments like the Supremes auditioning for Gordy and he asks “why did you sing that song, it was terrible?” “Because we wanted to sing one of your songs.” Doug Storm does a spot on and hilarious Ed Sullivan. Jesse Nager plays Smokey with this falsetto voice that makes you chuckle every time he opens his mouth. Another Funny moment is when Smokey comes on stage to sing a song with the Miracles but the Miracles don’t follow him at first because the police are there and they don’t know if they are gonna get arrested or not. There are also tense moments like a shooting while the Motown Revue is in Alabama as part of the Southern wing of the country-wise tour and Gordy being afraid for their lives. Diana fighting with Mary Wells. The saga of Gordy having to shell out 2 million to get LADY SINGS THE BLUES made at Paramount.
This show , coming off the road, is more personal than your usual Broadway show. A number of times during the show the performers on stage enlisted the audiences’ help to perform their numbers. One time Diana Ross turns up the house lights and brings people from the audience up on stage to help her sing REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEBODY’S HAND. She also has the audience join hands and sing along with her. Marvin Gaye , a dead ringer for Marvin and supremely played by Jarran Muse, has us help him with a couple of Gaye’s standards. The show is a big ball of musical fun from beginning to end.