BWW Review: MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is a Groovy Good Time at The Landmark Theatre

BWW Review: MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is a Groovy Good Time at The Landmark Theatre
Chester Grogory (right of center) and the company of Motown the Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The U.S. tour of Motown the Musical is lighting up the stage at Syracuse, New York's Landmark Theatre. The jukebox musical based on Berry Gordy's (book) autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown features familiar music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalog and focuses on the Motown greats like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and many more. The cast under the direction of Charles Randolph-Wright has the energy, confidence, and amazing vocals to fully embody these legendary musicians.

The musical - which explores Gordy's relationships with the famous artists, as well as how the Motown records label was found - features an undeniably talented touring cast. They make the audience feel as if they are seeing the hit singers live in concert as they take on hits like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "ABC" (a highly memorable rendition), "My Girl," "Do You Love Me," "Get Ready," "Dancing in the Streets," plus many more.

Like many jukebox musicals, you can expect to hear the audience sing along and see them dance in their seats as if they are at a concert. However, with the sheer number of songs packed into the musical, and the fact that so many characters come and go too quickly, the traditional musical theatre audience eager to see solid character development will likely be disappointed. The musical is quite lacking in that department.

BWW Review: MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is a Groovy Good Time at The Landmark Theatre
Chester Gregory and Allison Semmes. Photo by Joan Marcus.

What makes the show a fabulous one are the powerhouse singers, dancers, and actors. The actors are stars of their own. Chester Gregory portrays the legendary Berry Gordy with such confidence, charm, and he breathtaking vocals to boot. His energy on stage is intoxicating. Gregory has some of the strongest vocals that I have heard in a long time and gives an effortless performance.

The unbelievably talented Allison Semmes as Diana Ross is poised, elegant as she sings hits such as "I Hear a Symphony," "You're Nobody Until Somebody Loves You," and "You're All I Need to Get By." Semmes impersonation of Diana Ross is spot on. David Kaverman, as Smokey Robinson, charms the audience with his vocals, comedic timing, and oodles of confidence. Jarren Muse portrayal of Marvin Gaye is cool and self-assured, including when he sings hits such as "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

The supporting ensemble's talent and stamina is amazing. They constantly transform into various singers/groups - The Temptations, The Miracles, The Marvelettes, The Supremes, and The Contours, just to name a few.

The intricate choreography by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams is highly memorable and takes center stage in many of the group numbers, especially in "Dancing in the Streets."

The music of Motown allows the cast to showcase their tremendous talent. History comes to life in Motown the Musical as the live orchestra, under the direction of Darryl Archibald, plays hit after hit. The music, without a doubt, keeps the audience grooving making it just a fun show.

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours with one twenty minute intermission.

Motown the Musical runs through May 21, 2017 at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York as part of Broadway in Syracuse. For tickets and information on the touring production of Motown the Musical, click here. For information on Broadway in Syracuse, click here.

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