Motown The Musical – Bristol Hippodrome REVIEW

Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye… all musical legends in their own right but there was one man that made it all happen.

Motown The Musical is centred around the story of Berry Gordy and and his personal and professional rise and falls as he created the legendary Motown records. From Gordy’s childhood to his relationship with Diana Ross the story closely follows the ups and down of Motown records in a flashback style ending on the 25th anniversary of the company.

Edward Baruwa as Berry Gordy and Karis Anderson as Diana Ross both give convincing performances both alone and as a pair. They were supported well by Nathan Lewis as Smokey Robinson and Shak Gabbidon-Williams as Marvin Gaye as well as the ensemble of twenty who interchanged between bands and artists.

The scenery was slick and scene changes were seamless. Simplistic yet effective design didn’t distract from but enhanced the production and aided in the fast paced theme of the show.

The visuals were accompanied by a band who showcased the songs in the way they deserve. We were treated to renditions of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Reet Petite, Get Ready and Dancing in the Streets, which was my favourite number of the show. Energy never dropped and vocals never failed. With the focus on the music, Motown definitely delivered.

This jukebox musical that hasn’t let other elements other than the music slide, which is rare from the previous medley musicians I’ve seen. The script does feel a little stunted and awkward in places but the rest of the elements, dancing, set, acting and the political and racial context all stand strong, giving this production a strong backbone to support the songs.  

A total of 63 Motown classics make it into the production but nothing feels forced or rushed. Motown keeps songs short and sweet, keeping the pace fast and the audience satisfied as well as engaged. Whatever it does, it does well, and claims the title of my favourite jukebox musical I’ve seen to date. A brilliant homage to a legendary era of music.

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