Sweet, Sweet Music
Motown: The Musical opened last night at Hollywood Pantages Theatre.
It’s not everyday that you get to see music legend, Barry Gordy Jr, dance on stage at the Pantages Theatre. Last night the chairman got down after a terrific show celebrating the story and the history of Motown Records, which he started in 1959 in Detroit. The story is told in a family, feel-good way that chronicles the early days of Junior’s stuttering career and failed marriage. His large, loving family – who worked together in the family grocery business – decided to lend him $800 to start a record company after he had moderate success selling songs. His best friend and constant sidekick throughout the story is Smokey Robinson. His girl – though they never married – was Diana Ross and her story was just as interesting as his.
When watching the show, one can’t help but feel the parallels of today. The riots in Baltimore after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are addressed as Marvin Gaye moves towards protest music. The story of Diana Ross has a Beyoncé feel as the brightest star of a female vocal group goes off on her own and parlays her fame into a movie feature in Lady Sings The Blues.
There’s also the pilgrimage from Detroit to Los Angeles, which is timed with the discovery of Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. And the eventual decline of the label that continued to create hits by Smokey and Stevie Wonder but couldn’t close the gap after losing Marvin, Michael and Diana to larger labels with more money.
The show is simply terrific and filled with brilliantly performed Motown favorites and a heartfelt dialog sharing an American success story when we need it most. Since it was opening night, the producer got on stage to congratulate the cast and to invite the man of the evening, THE Barry Gordy Jr, to say a few words. They were: Thank you.
The show runs until June 7th.