BWW Review: MOTOWN Rolls Through Mobtown, Through Sunday Only at the Hippodrome
Catch MOTOWN THE MUSICAL before it races away from the Hippodrome in Baltimore. If you missed it in 2016, flag it down before it's gone. If you caught it before, it's had a tuneup and is plenty worth watching again. Surely someone you love should see it with you.
The Hippodrome is a lovely place to see a show, and the irritations of downtown traffic are balanced by the convenience of the nearby garages. There's an open lot on Eutaw street, and the Hippodrome-attached garage on Fayette Street is currently priced at $10, but for a quicker getaway, plan to use the Eutaw garage to the North of the theater. Occasionally, you may chance upon street parking, free after 6pm.
It's always a treat to enter the gorgeous space of the Hippodrome. Seats on the floor are reasonably comfortable, seats in the upper portion of the theatre, a little less spacious. The Hippodrome's coat check, $2 per item, prevents the necessity of sharing seating with large winter outerwear, and the bar is open pre-show serving snacks, soft drinks and cocktails. In a new trend of theatrical accessibility, you're permitted to carry your refreshments into the theatre.
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL, book by Berry Gordy, music and lyrics by Various Artists (significantly Smokey Robinson and Holland, Dozier & Holland) is one of the best written pieces of theatre I've seen in quite awhile, and hands down the best jukebox musical. Overall, a plot that includes the development of the iconic world-renowned record label, the history of The Supremes, the Vietnam war, and the Civil Rights Movement is going to create an atmosphere at once joyous and playful as well as serious and heartbreakingly relevant.
A great many people have done significant research to bring this production to life, and the attention to detail is gratifyingly thorough. Director Charles Randolph-White and musical director/conductor Matthew Croft give us lively action and music, and the brilliant wiggings of Charles LaPointe make everyone look just right for their characters throughout the decades- this show covers 1938 to 1983. (That's nearly 50 years, for those of you who don't like math.) Emilio Sosa's costume design captures the correct look and feel in outfitting the performers, ensuring flexibility for energetic dance moves plus hidden quick change fastenings.
The show opens with The Temptations and The Four Tops, in their sartorial splendour, musically duking it out, and, as openers go, they don't come much better than that. Action moves quickly, musical numbers follow accordingly and we are engaged and invested from the beginning. The humor and pathos of the piece are a sturdy sidecar to the themes of loyalty, community, power, money and equality. The theatrical ensemble has enough composure for a bit of audience interaction as well as a stunning level of pure talent. You could go just for the singing. You could go just for the dancing. Fortunately, you don't need to choose. This cast gives you both, and plenty of them. The headline actors deserve every kudo heaped upon them by every reviewer with pairs of working eyes and ears, as do the ensemble performers who transform themselves multiple times throughout their two hours' progress. Of particular interest to me are the impressive dance skills of Devin Holloway, the quick chameleon qualities of Alia Munsch and the smooth charm of youngster Chase Phillips, who shares his role with another child actor.
In this production, the lighting/ projections/ SFX used are wonderfully well done, set scene, tone or mood, and often include actual footage relevant to the sequences which they accompany. Lighting designer Natasha Katz and projections designer Daniel Brodie deserve accolades for this triumphant visual achievement.
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is for everyone. It's big-hearted, bold, family-friendly, flashy and just a whole lot of fun. If you're over 40, you owe yourself a nostalgic visit through this melodious, historic, groundbreaking, culturally definitive period. If you're under 40, you owe yourself the exquisite treat of an introduction to the music that changed a nation.
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL showtimes are 2 pm and 8 pm on Saturday April 14th, 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm on Sunday April 15th. Tickets are still available, though in limited quantities, as this is a "back by popular demand" encore performance, this weekend only.
For tickets online, visit https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/172363/1984012?brand=Hippodrome&CAMEFROM=BAABAL_MTW_BAA
The Hippodrome is located at
12 North Eutaw Street, Baltimore, MD, 21201