Motown: The Musical

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Motown: The Musical
Motown The Musical.jpg
Music Various
Lyrics Various
Book Berry Gordy
Basis To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown by Berry Gordy
Productions 2013 Broadway
2014 US Tour
2016 West End

Motown: The Musical is a Broadway jukebox musical. With a book by Berry Gordy, based on his 1994 autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown,[1] the musical is based on the story of Gordy's founding and running of the Motown record label, and his personal and professional relationships with Motown artists such as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson. The music and lyrics for the musical are taken from selections from the Motown catalog.[2] The musical premiered on Broadway in April 2013.

Motown: The Musical received four Tony Award nominations at the 67th edition.


Motown: The Musical premiered on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on April 14, 2013, after previews starting on March 11.[3][4] Direction is by Charles Randolph-Wright, with choreography by Patricia Wilcox, scenic design by David Korins, costumes by ESosa, lighting by Natasha Katz, sound design by Peter Hylenski, and projection design by Daniel Brodie.[3] The current cast includes Brandon Victor Dixon, Krystal Joy Brown (Diana Ross), Raymond Luke Jr. and Prince George Maynard as the young Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Berry Gordy, Bryan Terrell Clark (Marvin Gaye) and Charl Brown (Smokey Robinson).[3]

A national tour began in April 2014.

The musical finished its original Broadway run on January 18, 2015, closing after 37 previews and 738 regular performances.[5]

A return to Broadway is planned for July 2016, according to the producer Kevin McCollum.[6]

After speculation that a London production would be staged in the Dominion Theatre after the refurbishment of the theatre after the closing of We Will Rock You,[7] an eventual West End production was announced for the Shaftesbury Theatre to begin on 11 February 2016 and ending on 22 October 2016.[8][9]


In 1983 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium recording stars are gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Motown Records. In a flashback, in Detroit, Michigan the young Berry Gordy watches the neighbors dancing. In 1957, the adult Berry forms his own record label, and begins to make lifelong friends with recording artists/singers such as Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. Berry discovers the Supremes and Diana Ross, among many others.

The recording stars sing their popular numbers, including Ross performing " 'I Hear a Symphony,' 'You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You' and 'You're All I Need to Get By,'.... Stevie Wonder, The Supremes ('Buttered Popcorn' 'Where Did Our Love Go'), The Miracles ('Shop Around') The Marvelettes ('Please Mr. Postman'), Mary Wells and The Temptations ('Bye Bye Baby'/'Two Lovers Medley'), Martha and the Vandellas ('Dancing in the Street'), The Contours ('Do You Love Me'),... and The Jackson 5.[10]

Musical numbers[edit]

The musical contains a total of 66 songs. This song list is not the order of the songs in the production:[11]

Critical response[edit]

Charles Isherwood, in his review for The New York Times, wrote: "More than 50 songs....are performed in 'Motown,' usually, alas, in truncated versions. Most are simply presented as concert versions by the actors playing the artists who made them famous, but a few are shoehorned awkwardly into the story as 'book' songs....Making way for so much music means that 'Motown' breezily scrimps on storytelling. Characters come and go so quickly we barely have time to register their famous names, let alone get to know them....The performers put their songs across with verve and an admirable lack of self-consciousness, given that the audience is likely to be intimately familiar with every nuance of phrasing from the original recordings..."[2]

The TheatreMania reviewer noted:

Rather than giving us a complex portrait on this fascinating businessman, the show's shoddily written book is essentially a self-serving theatrical memoir in which Gordy gets to tell his life story. But just as importantly, the piece also serves as a celebration of the music that brought America's black and white populations together in a way nothing else ever did. Perhaps that is why Gordy and his creative team, led by director Charles Randolph-Wright, seem so worried they left out an audience favorite that they crammed in more than 50 hits. The result is that too few of the beloved Motown classics receive the kind of full-scale, all-out renditions they deserve. An early, extended version of Martha & The Vandellas' 'Dancing in the Street' proves not just a high point (abetted by energetic choreography from Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams), but a false promise of what lies ahead....The one person who truly shines, though, is Valisia LeKae as Gordy's longtime paramour, superstar Diana Ross. It's not just her almost spot-on re-creation of Miss Ross' breathy voice and steely demeanor that commands our attention. The consistent display of her genuine star power — most evident in a thrilling 'Reach Out and Touch' segment — also draws us in.[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Motown: The Musical received four Tony Award nominations: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Musical) (Valisia LeKae); Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role (Musical) (Charl Brown); Best Orchestrations (Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook); and Best Sound Design of a Musical (Peter Hylenski).[13] The New York Times noted: "...'Motown the Musical,' a huge hit, drew four nominations, but none of them were for best musical."[14]

Valisia LeKae received a 2013 Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway or Off-Broadway Debut Performance.[15]


  1. ^ Haithman, Diane. "Talk! In the Name of Love:.. (partial article)" Los Angeles Times, December 11, 1994
  2. ^ a b Isherwood, Charles. ‘Motown: The Musical,’ Berry Gordy’s Story" The New York Times, April 14, 2013
  3. ^ a b c Hetrick, Adam. " 'Hail to the Beat': 'Motown: The Musical' Opens On Broadway April 14", April 14, 2013
  4. ^ McCollum, Brian."Berry Gordy's 'Motown: The Musical' preparing to make Broadway debut" Detroit Free Press (partial, paid archive), February 7, 2013
  5. ^ Hetrick, Adam & Gioia, Michael. "Motown Moves Out; Hit Broadway Musical Closes With Promise of 2016 Return", January 18, 2015
  6. ^ Gioia, Michael. Motown Will Move Out! Musical Will Take Broadway Hiatus With U.K. Plans in Store", August 21, 2014
  7. ^ "'Motown: The Musical' boogies into Dominion after We Will Rock You?", 11 March 2014
  8. ^ "Motown the Musical to open at the Shaftesbury Theatre". London Theatre. 15 May 2015. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "Motown: The Musical to premiere at the Shaftesbury Theatre in February 2016". London Theatre Direct. 15 May 2015. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Saltzman, Simon. "A CurtainUp Review. 'Motown: The Musical'", April 13, 2013
  11. ^ Motown: The Musical songlist, Internet Broadway Database, accessed May 22, 2013
  12. ^ Lipton, Brian Scott. "Review. 'Motown: The Musical'", April 14, 2013
  13. ^ "'Motown: The Musical' up for 4 Tonys; 'Kinky Boots' leads with 13" The Detroit News, April 30, 2013
  14. ^ Itzkoff, Dave. "Tony Award Nominations: Who Got Snubbed?" The New York Times, April 30, 2013
  15. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Tom Hanks, Bertie Carvel, Valisia LeKae, Rob McClure and More Are Theatre World Award Winners", May 7, 2013

External links[edit]