Motown the Musical has hit the road with an invitation across the nation to see the show on its UK tour – and if you RSVP to see it in Blackpool you’ll soon be dancing in Church Street.
The smash hit West End Show tells the incredible tale of the legendary Berry Gordy, who founded the iconic Motown record label with just $800 he borrowed from his family.
The story reveals the professional struggles and personal relationships during the journey that created not just a label, but the music of a generation. Music that got people around the world moving to the same beat.
Motown Records launched the careers of global artists such as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5, releasing hits that achieved phenomenal success on both sides of the Atlantic.
The show’s Creative Consultant, performer Michael Lovesmith, worked with Berry Gordy for decades, during which time he coached the Jackson 5, and produced the likes of The Temptations and The Supremes.
Here, Michael and the show’s acclaimed director Charles Randolph-Wright, two of the people who know Mr Gordy best, describe the part they played in the making of Motown history and a sensational musical.
Michael was born and raised in the world of music: “I was on the road as a child, singing in churches as a trio with my brothers. Then at age eleven I was introduced to Holland-Dozier-Holland, who signed me to a song writing contract, and I wrote my first song for them, to be performed by Dionne Warwick. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and it was a good thing I had a good song!"
Meanwhile Charles met Mr Gordy at age seventeen: "By that time I had produced about 12 artists,” he says. “Motown wanted me to work with the Jackson 5. I was their age, so I could relate to them in a way that not everybody could. They were so used to working with older people who didn’t quite understand their energy! I ended up becoming Berry Gordy’s protégé, and started producing and vocal coaching Michael and his brothers. Then soon after that I started recording with The Supremes and The Temptations. That’s pretty much how I got started.”
Charles Randolph-Wright, a member of the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls, joined the Motown family at a later stage, coming on board to direct Motown The Musical which premiered on Broadway in 2013. “For me Motown has always been part of my life. The opportunity to work with Mr Gordy was mind-blowing when this project came up because he was and is a major inspiration to me.
“My family says that I was directing from the minute I was walking. Theatre fascinated me from my very first experience in the audience. But even as a performer, I always was intrigued by directing and writing.”
Motown The Musical tells the story of Berry Gordy’s life and the development of Motown Records in Detroit, Michigan, which soon became known as Hitsville USA. What was it like for Michael being at the epicentre of the Motown movement at the time? “I was desperate to get to Detroit and get working in music but my parents wanted me to get through school, so I studied and studied so I could graduate from high school early and from there I went straight to Detroit,” Michael explains, “The funny thing about Motown is, I think Motown could have been anywhere, and in a sense it was.”
“But the unique thing that Detroit had was Berry Gordy,” says Charles. And Berry Gordy became a magnet for musicians and singers all over the country.
“He was this beacon of light,” agrees Michael.
The direction of the show focuses on how Mr Gordy’s ambition and talent founded Motown – and that the music was a Motown sound, not a Detroit one.
“Although some people think Motown is a real place!” says Charles.
Michael laughs: “You know what though, it almost was.”
It was a tall order to find someone to make Motown the Musical sound like Motown. “One person came to meet us and gave us his idea of how he would find a Stevie Wonder, a Michael Jackson, a Smokey Robinson, which we didn’t think was possible, and that person was Charles Randolph-Wright,” says Michael. “Charles walked into the room and knew what Motown is, who Motown is and what Motown looks and feels like. He grew up on this music. We put the show in his hands.”
It was therefore vital to Charles that he did the show justice: “It was so important to me because Mr Gordy is one of my idols, so I wanted to create the show that he wanted to see.”
This meant taking the same approach Berry Gordy did, finding artists that would evoke a certain thing: “I wanted them to make me feel the way Diana Ross made me feel, an actress that would actually make me put my hands up and sing “Reach Out and Touch”,” says Charles. “I had a goldmine to work with because Mr Gordy and Michael were there to help, and they knew these people before they were the icons they became.
After success on Broadway and the West End, Michael explains why the team wanted to bring Motown The Musical to the rest of the UK, “We owed it to the UK, it is the heart of Motown and the UK has kept Motown alive.
“The vibe here is fantastic, audiences are screaming and cheering and it’s incredible, it’s like being back in one of the shows from the 70s.”
Charles adds: “What has surprised me the most with audiences is that Motown appeals to every age. I love that each audience member finds some aspect of this show that resonates with them.”
He concludes, “It’s not just a record label, it’s not just a show, it’s a movement.”
Featuring over 50 classic hits including “My Girl,” “What’s Going On,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Motown the Musical is at the Opera House 27th-31st August. Book your tickets here.