**** 4/5


Prepare to be transported back to 1957 and the birth of motown music. Think Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5: all that soulful, pop music that gets your toes tapping. Motown the Musical brings together some of the best music from the Motown Records label into one succinct show.

The story begins with the founder of the label, Berry Gordy, reflecting on the 25th anniversary of their music before taking you back in time to the beginning of his story. We’re taken through the whole evolution of Motown and their journey to get hit records played on mainstream radio. As well as being all about the music, we also get an insight into the struggles facing black people at that time. The duration of setting up the label saw the rise and assassination of Martin Luther King and JFK as well as the Detriot race riots. So many significant events occurred during the initial Motown era and it was incredibly insightful to see how this affected those there at the time.

We’re introduced to all the main players on the Motown label, from humble beginnings to super stardom. The owner, Berry Gordy, is played by the fantastic Edward Baruwa and he has the most emotive voice I’ve heard on stage in a long time. The amount of feeling he put into every word he was saying and singing was felt right at the back of the theatre. His relationship with Diana Ross, played by the beautiful Karis Anderson, is the ultimate rollercoaster ride. You see their struggles of mixing business with pleasure laid out right out on the stage. Anderson as Ross starts off as a shy teenager wanting to be a famous singer before transforming into the icon that is Ms Ross. She has talent to boot and a costume department that dressed her to the nines!




I think my favourite performer was Shak Gabbidon-Williams as Marvin Gaye. He had the smoothest vocals and slick dance moves to match. I just wish he got more stage time because he was extraordinary!

Once again, the matinee audience were a let-down. My mother and I were sat three rows from the back and as well as plenty of empty seats, there was little movement from anyone in front of us. In fact, all of the singing and cheering came from us and the OAP trip behind us! Luckily, the cast demanded we stand for the finale so at least that livened the place up!

Despite the lack of audience participation (including when the actors shouted out towards the audience), the show was slick from start to finish. You can tell this is a West End production and cast. Hats off to the costuming department because there were so many different outfit changes for every character and many of those were quick changes too! Every detail, from a sleeve to a button, was intricate and yes, I notice these things from the back too!

Another highlight for me was the choreography. Every note in the music had been thought through and every move was stylised to the time period. There’s nothing that irks me more than dance moves that don’t fit with the era (here’s looking at you, Thriller Live).

From start to finish, Motown the Musical will have you singing along and dancing in the street, sorry I meant seat! Even if you don’t think you know any motown music, I guarantee you’ll know at least one song, if not loads! After all, there are 66 songs to choose from in this show!

Motown the Musical is showing until Saturday 6th July at Hull New Theatre and continues on its UK tour after that.


Have you seen Motown the Musical? What’s the best show you’ve seen so far in 2019?

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