‘Motown The Musical’ provided flawless nostalgia, invites you to ‘Reach Out and Touch and Somebody’s Hand’
Motown The Musical, touring nationally and running this week at the Altria Theatre, was something even “B.G”, the nickname Marvin Gaye affectionately gave Motown Chairmen Berry Gordy, would be proud of.
It was a trip down memory lane for all of those involved where Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians all came together to celebrate and remember the impact the famed soul and R&B record label had on everyone’s lives. But this production was more than just a musical as it actually served as a history lesson with a historic soundtrack.
The narrative delved into issues from racism, to the Kennedy and Dr. King assassination as well as the Vietnam war, unafraid to tackle some of the time periods most controversial topics. It was an experience where if you closed your eyes and didn’t know that you were in a theatre watching a show, you would have felt as if you were actually there.
One of Motown’s highlights was how the cast was able to involve the audience; with the lovely Diana Ross (played by Allison Semmes) invited folks from the audience to come up on stage and sing with her and afterword got the whole crowd to grab hands and sing one of her classic songs “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand.”
Speaking of Semmes, she had a standout performance. It was compelling to see how she was able to capture the aurora and mystique that Diana had from the wardrobe to her hair all the way to her body movements and voice.
Semmes dazzled, sounding as good (if not better) than the former leader of the Supremes herself.
Chester Gregory, who played the great Berry Gordy Jr., filled the role of father figure towards his acts perfectly, and acted as someone who seemed strong like the former Motown leader Gordy did. Chester’s singing was also just as impressive as his acting.
The show was a spectacle and a celebration of how much of an impact Motown made on so many people.
They mentioned in the play multiple times how the label’s music really brought people together and it was evident by just watching the audience with folks of all nationalities singing along to timeless classics like The Temptations “My girl” and Smokey Robinsons “Shop around.” The closing number, Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell’s “Ain’t no mountain high enough,” was particularly moving.
The atmosphere was great while the sets were even better. The orchestra, conducted by the obviously talented Darryl Archibald, was flawless and the music, nostalgic.
If you’re a passionate fan of Motown then you need to go out and see this wonderful show.
Director Charles Randolph-Wright should also be giving credit for great blocking and being able to revive the energy of one of music’s greatest legacies.
I left the Altria feeling like I’d seen more of a concert than an actual musical because every time I closed my eyes it was like I was really there, watching history unfold. Watching old live videos of the acts featured in the play showed some amazing similarities to this live production and Randolph-Wright brought more often nailed it on the head.
So if you were on the edge about going to see the show, you shouldn’t be. Go and reach out and touch somebody’s hand and relive history in this dazzling show.
“Every season, we look forward to bringing the best of Broadway direct to Richmond and presenting all of these shows at the beautiful Altria Theater.”April 7, 2016
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