Motown a treat for the senses at Segerstrom Center for the Arts

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Motown is a time-travelling love letter to one of the most important eras of music history.  The audience is taken on a musical journey through the career of Berry Gordy, Motown’s ambitious and laser-focused creator, spanning from 1938 to 1983. You will find it hard to not get out of your seat and dance along with the 66+ songs featured, and at one point, you may even get a chance to participate!

The portrayals of Motown legends like Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, and Stevie Wonder (to name a few) are so realistic. Audience members screamed at the entrance of an artist as though it was the real deal. Some vocals missed the mark a bit, it is very difficult to imitate Smokey Robinson with conviction. I was personally blown away by Trenyce’s portrayal of Diana Ross, Matt Manuel as Marvin Gaye, and Cartreze Tucker as Stevie Wonder. All three actors sounded exactly like we were listening to their character counterpart live. Manuel and Tucker even looked exactly like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Kenneth Mosley was a stand-out as Berry Gordy, what a voice!

I love the music of Motown, and was a bit saddened by how rushed each song was. They are able to fit a lot of music into the show, but at the cost of never finishing a single song. The costumes were beautiful, most notably for The Supremes, and overall the performances were very exciting. Having almost no previous knowledge of Berry Gordy’s involvement in Motown, it was a fantastic history lesson, both in the history of the label as well as how Motown was effected by the changing political climate in the 1960’s and 70’s. The staging seemed a bit off at times, to where it almost had the feel of college theater.  I was not sure if this was actually the case, or if they were not prepared for the smaller space at Segerstrom.  Some of the directing and blocking felt a bit amateur as well, where the scene did not seem completely convincing due to slight physical overacting and heavy emphasis on clarity of lines delivered.

Overall, I enjoyed the show. I thought the time-warp to the hey-day of Motown was a treat for the senses. The audience screaming at the sight of Diana Ross or a young Michael Jackson reminds you why Motown was so successful.