Motown the Musical is at the IU Auditorium for three performances with an opening on October 31 and additional performances on November 1st and 2nd. It’s a fast paced show with plenty of energetically delivered hits from the story of Berry Gordy and Motown records beginning in 1957 and moving up to the celebratory twenty-fifth year reunion in 1983.
Kenneth Mosley was a fine actor, singer and even comedian as the toughly visionary Gordy. He saw himself as the nurturing father for his talented company. As in all families there were plenty of internal disagreements and not all the children were particularly happy with being obedient. Matt Manuel was a very fine actor, singer and rebel as Marvin Gaye. Justin Reynolds appeared as Gordy’s partner and often foil, Smokey Robinson. Trenyce was quite wonderful as Diana Ross.
The show covers a lot of social ground in a musical and a meaningful way. One of the early tours to Birmingham, Alabama plays to a segregated audience with a bullying policeman on stage. Gordy and the others are shocked at the assassination of Kennedy. Members of the Motown label are deeply moved by the civil rights struggle, the assassination of Martin Luther King and the new attitudes of freedom and expression.
All through the story there were the varied hits from the periods with fine pointed performances reminding us of groups and soloists that were the signatures of the times.
The story of Motown is very much the tale of Berry Gordy. His strengths drove the organization to expansion, to new heights and that sometimes the very success led to mini disasters. Artists that were nurtured and flourished at Motown were cherry picked by organizations with bigger pockets. Berry was justifiably bitter and angry, but at the same time that his sensitive heart ached, his head understood.
As Motown the Musical came to a close…Trenyce as Diana Ross escorted Dre’Woods…filling in for Kenneth Mosely in the second act …to the stage for a celebratory performance of “Aint No Mountain High Enough” and a standing ovation from the audience.
Earlier in the evening at the nearby Neal-Marshall Black Cultural Center Dr. Charles Sykes from IU’s African American Art Institute gave a preshow talk on the impact of Motown in American popular music and culture and the IU Soul Revue performed
Motown the Musical at the IU Auditorium continues with performances tonight (Nov 1) and Thursday night (Nov 2)
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker