I have sat through jukebox shows with music by everyone from Bob Dylan to the Beach Boys while wondering, “When’s there going to be a Motown one already?”
And now there’s finally one coming for next March, and it’s actually more than just a jukebox show; it mixes in the songs while telling the story of groundbreaking Motown founder Berry Gordy.
So it’s sort of a black Jersey Boys.
And after seeing part of a presentation they did last night at the Broadway theater where Newsies usually resides, it sounds like they’re doing the music enough justice to avoid chants of “It’s the same old song.”
Brandon Victor Dixon (award nominee for Color Purple and Scottsboro Boys) sang spectacularly as Gordy, lacing into “Get Ready” with flair by serving it with respect yet putting his hot personal imprint on it.
(He initially sings it to a doubting white lady character, so it becomes Gordy’s cry to the world–sort of a “Get ready, here comes Motown” wakeup call for anyone who cares about musical and social progress.)
Out came three sparkly gals who dove into the Martha and the Vandellas hit “Dancing in the Street” and they did really well too, giving it oomph and soul and vocally averting anything even slightly cheesy.
The numbers were backed by a singing, dancing chorus, so it was all very spirited–and best of all, they did the whole songs! Not just snippets of melodies!
I can’t say what the rest of the show will be like, and I can’t comment yet on the script, except to say it has Gordy being dragged to a tribute in his honor, a moment that leads back to the story of his rise.
But as long as they’re treating the invigorating “sound of young America” like this, I’m quite sure the music alone will sell Motown The Musical, even if they just read menus aloud between numbers.
Ain’t nothing like the real thing, but who cares?
Reach out, I’ll be there on opening night.