WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE: Shaftesbury Theatre
WHEN: 15/9 (matinee), booking to October 2017
We’re sitting on the end of the third row and there’s a moment in the second act when the actress playing Diana Ross appears in the audience looking for someone to duet with and is stood directly in front of us.
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Luckily she beckons to a man several seats to our left who explains he’s here with his mother on her 60th birthday treat before a relaxed and confident duet.
The best thing about Motown – The Musical is the songs, 66 of them mostly performed by cast members playing stars including The Supremes, Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder (pictured above) and Smokey Robinson.
When Get Ready segues into Dancing In The Streets midway through the first half it’s easy to get lost in how brilliant this pop music that brought together black and white people across the world was – and still is.
Less involving however is the story of the rise of Berry Gordy’s record label and his relationship with its biggest star, Ms Ross. Perhaps it’s because so much of this two-hour and 45 minute-show is focused on the music that we never really feel like we particularly know or care about any of the lead characters.
What is Ms Ross’ motivation? Why don’t The Supremes get on? How does Gordy feel about selling off his empire? Why are Motown’s biggest stars leaving for more lucrative careers elsewhere?
Seismic world events (Vietnam, the death of Martin Luther King) are referenced almost in passing without much contemplation before rushing into the next hit.
Motown – The Musical, then, is definitely a show for the feet to dance to but one that doesn’t demand much brain engagement.