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Cloudy,35°
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Motown
A Review by Elyse Trevers

Are you a baby boomer? If so, you grew up with Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Temptations, The Jackson Five and Marvin Gaye. These artists and the myriad of others on the Motown record label (yeah, records) may make you nostalgic for your youth. If you are of a certain age, then you may already have your tickets to see the new jukebox musical Motown at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The show is presented by Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, and stars some of the most talented performers on Broadway. The show stands up well to the scrutiny of those who are familiar with the original artists.

The story begins in 1983 with the 25th anniversary of the Motown labels. Many of the artists are returning, but Gordy is resentful and refuses to attend; he helped make their careers but they left him after they were successful. The first few moments of the show are energetic with a good opening of The Four Tops and The Temptations vocally dueling. Then it gets quite slow with flashbacks to 9-year-old Gordy with his family watching Joe Louis become boxing's world champion.

Gordy was responsible for launching the careers of some of the most famous and successful in Rock and Roll history and the book for Motown comes from his own memoir. However, his involvement brings all the assets and liabilities of having someone so involved with the development of the musical. One wonders about how honest he is in his own role. He appears as a martyr, betrayed by the artists he considered family, an unblemished hero whose only fault is that he works too hard for his artists. Brandon Victor Dixon is quite good as Gordy. He's best when he gets to use 'real' language and not the cliched phrases that sometimes mar the book.

Motown takes place during some of the most tumultuous times in American history, but truthfully, there appears to be little connection to the Kennedy and King assassinations and the Vietnam war to the music other than emotionally. So why include it?

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