Review: Motown the Musical

Author: Kiley Hixson

Take a trip back in time to one of music’s most iconic eras. An era where The Supremes, The Temptations, and The Miracles filled the ears of radio listeners. Motown the Musical is a tribute to the Recording studios’ most famous artists, as well as the man who made it all possible, Barry Gordy. This production provides its viewers with a foot-tapping, funk-filled nostalgic look into Motown, and how it came to be known as a powerhouse of the music industry.

This production begins in 1983,with an exciting mashup of “I Cant Help Myself”, and “Baby I Need Your Loving’” , by the Four Tops and “’Aint too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations. The battle of the two groups is all for the rehearsal show for of Motown’s 25th Anniversary. These phenomenal artists have gathered in Los Angeles to celebrate where their careers all started. However, while these artists were excited to return, Barry Gordy struggles to find a reason to come back to the reunion. Barry feels that he was under appreciated after all his artists left his studio for bigger contracts at other places. It takes Barry’s friends and family to remind him of the impact that Motown had on not only the artists’ lives, but his life and the entire music industry.  This makes Barry sentimental, and we are taken back to 1938, when he was a young boy, with a dream of being remembered and making people happy.

It is from here that the real story begins. The story of Motown and how it came to be. With flashy choreography, and remarkable vocalists, we get to relive the iconic moments of Jackie Wilson in “Lonely Teardrops”, Jackson 5 in “ABC”, and the unforgettable Supremes in “Where did our love go”.  Barry and his close friend Smokey Robinson find and establish a group of artists and songwriters who work together to create an unforgettable era for music, as well as a close-knit family.

While the story touches on the love and support each artist had from Barry and each other, there are also the struggles of the company, and the society at that time.  The time period when Motown was just beginning was amidst the start of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. It was after a shooting incident in Birmingham, Alabama, that Motown was no longer just a record company to the artists, but a place to provide hope and strength to the African-American community. Songs like “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye gave a voice to the voiceless and allowed for the artists to express politically on a public level.

It also shows the struggles Barry had after his big artists left his company for other studios with more money and better offers. Instead of giving up, Barry and his co-workers rallied to give us hits such as “Brick House” by The Commodores, “Crusin’” by Smokey Robinson, “Super Freak” by Rick James, and “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder. These artists continued the legacy that was Motown.

In an era focused on separation, the story of Motown shows what coming together as a group can accomplish, and provides inspiration for generations to come. Motown The Musical made me feel as though I had stepped back into the 60’s and 70’s. It allowed me to relive a historical era that changed the music industry. It provided me with chills, happiness, sadness, and everything in between. With the exceptional talent of the actors and actresses, I felt connected to the artists and their stories, and would highly recommend that every person seen this inspiring musical at least once.

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