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BWW Review: MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at Buell Theatre


Welcome to Hitsville, USA, and the start of the Motown Music empire that fostered such legendary artists as Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and countless others. Motown the Musical takes the audience down memory lane and with a soundtrack featuring dozens of songs that made the Motown recording label famous.

While I was fully prepared for a jukebox musical revue style show, walking into the auditorium, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this show has quite a story to it. Motown the Musical follows the founder of Motown records, Berry Gordy (Chester Gregory), and the many iconic artists who helped build not only his recording empire, but also the very foundation of Motown-style music that we know and love. These pioneering artists paved the way for generations of African-American recording artists who persevered in the face of atrocious prejudice throughout their careers. In the late 50s, Berry Gordy began to give a voice to these artists, who have become some of the most respected and honored musical giants in the industry. And while the road was not easy, the Motown label continued to promote talented musicians who would have not been given their proper chance in the heat of the American civil rights movement.

The show was stunning, all throughout. The music was timeless and soul-stirring, and not a person in the audience could resist tapping their feet with the beat of the countless Motown classics. The portrayals of legendary icons like Diana Ross (Allison Semmes), Smokey Robinson (David Kaverman), Marvin Gaye (Jarran Muse), and many others were outstandingly accurate. Every member of the large ensemble played at least one spot-on rendition of a Motown artist, and every one of them was a powerhouse vocalist, dancer, and actor. I simply can't rave enough about the power and perfection of the performances in this show. I could feel the passion, struggle, and triumph of each performer as they built the story of the Motown history.

While the plot for the show was largely factual and real, the set for Motown was ethereal and creative, using moving LED video panels to create countless performance spaces, recording studios, and other settings throughout the production. The costuming for the show was particularly spectacular, as many of the artists' iconic performance looks were re-created without flaw. Even though the actors were sensational on their own, they sounded even better because of the incredible orchestra that supported them, led by conductor Daryl Archibald. The synthesis of all the elements in the production made for one of the most entertaining nights of theatre I've experienced in awhile.

If you are a fan of Motown music, or just love an interesting telling of a piece of musical history, this show will keep you bouncing in your seat and struggling not to hum along with all of the beautiful music that came from a generation of incredible artists who made up the Motown recording empire. Their story is real, raw, and incredible, and it makes for a theatrical experience that can't be beat.

Motown the Musical plays the Buell Theatre February 15-19, 2017. Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at $35 at or 303.893.4100.

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From This Author colin roybal

Colin Roybal is a founding member of Equinox Theatre company and currently acts as one of the co-executive producers for the company. After finding a (read more...)

  • BWW Review: MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at Buell Theatre