By: Aug. 08, 2017
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Imagine being in a show so significant to the history of music that you have theatre patrons thanking you for being part of it. Playing Marvin Gaye on the national tour of MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL, performer Jarran Muse has experienced the power of Berry Gordy Jr's production first-hand.

Running through August 13 in Morsani Hall at the Straz Center, MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL features over 40 classic hits such as "My Girl" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and tells the story behind the founder of careers of such megastars as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and others.

"You learn how Berry Gordy got the inspiration to create Motown, how he found the artists, and how the relationship between he and Diana Ross started and ended," said Muse.

Though he's had many amazing moments throughout the country, Muse was truly inspired by the reaction of an audience member outside the stage door after a show in Durham, North Carolina. She had been a child and teen during segregation and integration in the south. Motown music, a mixture of soul and pop music that helped break down barriers of the racial divide, had been a huge every-day part of her history.

"She said, you know what you guys are doing is remarkable. You are keeping the Motown legacy alive and introducing history to the new generation," Muse said. "To hear stories like that from people who lived in the 50s and the 60s and for them to be able to pinpoint where they were when these songs came out or their first dance, their first kiss - whatever the milestone - that is so satisfying that I can get them a piece of that every single night."

Muse, a native of New Jersey, first auditioned to be part of the production for MOTOWN when it was a staged-reading while the show was still in the early building and writing stages, before the workshops. He was cast as part of the ensemble, but when he got a role in Green Day'S AMERICAN IDIOT, he left and was replaced.

"When they got their Broadway contract, they asked if I'd rejoin the family. I was the first male swing with the original Broadway cast and I was the first Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson understudy, along with all the guys in the ensemble."

During the national tour in 2014, Muse was offered the role of Marvin Gaye.

"Mr. Berry Gordy Jr. himself wanted me to be Marvin Gaye. That made my life."

To learn about how to become Marvin Gaye, Muse read all books and literature that pertained to Marvin and reviewed hours of performance footage on what he dubbed "YouTube University."

"This biggest source of information we are lucky to have is Mr. Berry Gordy Jr. He wrote this show. This is his baby, but he was also Marvin Gaye's brother-in-law," he said.

His favorite moment in the musical is his performance of "Mercy, Mercy Me."

"It's a beautiful moment theatrically and Marvin is compelled to sing this song for Berry Gordy who is against releasing the album. Can you imagine if they would have never have released that album?" he asked. "Mr. Gordy wanted to spread love, togetherness, positivity and unity and it holds so much weight today, not just the 50s and 60s, but in 2017. It's something we all need to hear and appreciate."

MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL is at the Straz Center's Morsani Hall, Aug. 8-13. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827), at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at