Motown The Musical (UK Tour) – Review

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Motown The Musical (UK Tour): Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Reviewed 4th September 2019

★★★★

Fresh from its fantastic three year run in London’s West End Motown is a history of some of the legendary artists such as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and many more. With just $800 Berry Gordy founded Motown Records and, as they say, the rest is history. Featuring over 50 classic well-loved hits such as ‘My Girl’, ‘What’s Going On’, ‘Dancing In The Street’,’ I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ and ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ Motown is a night full of your favourite hits.

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The digital backgrounds and scenic design by David Korins and Daniel Brodie are some of the best seen – especially impressive for a UK tour. Vivid and bright, they appear almost 3D at points and completely whisk the audience away. Fantastic use of the lighting, designed by Natasha Katz, is also stunning in this show. The production has clearly pulled out all of the stops. The amount of wigs, hair pieces and even facial hair pieces alone goes to show how much effort the creative team have gone to and the countless costumes by Emilo Sosa are exquisitely detailed and in keeping with the era.

Obviously a lot of the audience will be going for the Motown music, the memorable tunes and familiar faces onstage. Like most ‘jukebox musicals’ Motown relies on this to entice the audience in but the story of Berry Gordy is told very well throughout the show too, cleverly interwoven with Motown’s biggest hits.

The large cast work hard, often as multiple characters, and fully embody the artist they are representing. It is a shame that at times some of the acting feels slightly wooden, as though the performer is going through the motions but luckily these are few and far between. Edward Baruwa is brilliant as Berry Gordy himself. His growth during the show is depicted very honestly and his vocals during his moving finale song are gorgeous. Shak Gabbidon-Williams is absolutely brilliant as Marvin Gaye – his vocals are effortlessly smooth and his characterisation and emotion through the lyrics is great. Nathan Lewis is also fantastic as Smokey Robinson, Barry’s right hand man. Karis Anderson owns the stage during her performances as Diana Ross and there is also a cheeky moment for the audience to take to the stage too – no doubt a highlight of the night for those lucky chosen audience members.

Motown is certainly full of hits and is an enjoyable evening out. Whilst it touches on race relations and the struggles for the artists often this is skimmed over in favour of more lighthearted entertainment. It may not be as memorable as some similar productions (Memphis for example) – but it is the songs that make this show the hit it is. The attention to detail and amount of effort that has gone into this production makes it worth the ticket price alone. A must for any fans of Motown music!

Motown The Musical is playing at the Marlowe Theatre until the 14th September 2019. For tickets and information click here. It then continues its UK Tour until the 4th January 2020. For tickets and venues click here.

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

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