BWW Review: MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL Rocks the Music Hall in Kansas City
The joyous trip back through musical history comes to life from Detroit to Los Angeles in Motown: The Musical now playing at the Music Hall in Kansas City, Mo. Motown: The Musical with a book by Berry Gordy based on his 1994 autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown. Gordy founded the Motown record label, launching the careers of superstars Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson.
Motown: The Musical opened on Broadway in April of 2013, receiving four Tony Award nominations. Musical Director Darryl Archibald conducts the orchestra through the music from The Legendary Motown Catalog and arranged by Sony and ATV Music Publishing.
Presented by Broadway Across America the jukebox musical opened on Tuesday December 9 and runs through Sunday December 14. Costume designs by Esosa match those of performers and their actual appearances in their careers to get the most reaction out of the audience. The audience showed their appreciation for the diligence of Esosa in research enthusiastically applauding as Diana Ross walks on to the stage in a replica of the costume from the Ed Sullivan Show.
Motown: The Musical brought a flood of memories for me and hopefully gives members of the audience too young to have lived through the era a greater appreciation for the songs that shaped music for all times. Impersonating pop music icons of the 1960's and 70's is a phenomenal cast singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," "My Girl," and "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" among a large assortment of chart busters.
The story begins in 1983 as a disgruntled Berry Gordy, fabulously played by Jamarice Daughtry on Wednesday night, refuses to attend a television show honoring the 25 years of Motown. Gordy takes the audience back through time to the beginning of Hittsville U.S.A. and the signing of one of the first performers Smokey Robinson, played by Jesse Nager. The two acts follow Gordy back to 1983 through his love affair with Diana Ross to the decline of his record label as the top stars desert him for contracts that are more lucrative.
Allison Semmes is magnificent as Diana Ross. She gives a powerful and dynamic performance as she gets the audience holding hands above their heads and swaying back and forth while singing, "Reach Out And Touch." She continues to play the audience as she steps from the stage in a white sequenced gown and invites an audience member to sing with her.
Leon Outlaw, Jr. played the trio roles of the young Gordy, young Stevie Wonder, and young Michael Jackson on Wednesday night. His performance as Jackson was electrifying as he auditions for Gordy with the Jackson 5.
This musical romp sports a large talented cast that gets the audience to rocking, clapping, and tapping to the golden days of pop. Motown: The Musical continues at the Music Hall through December 14. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m., except for Sunday when performances are at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. There is a matinee performance on Saturday at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets by visiting the Theatre League of Kansas City website. Photo courtesy of Broadway Across America.