Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 25, 2016

Motown-The Musical

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT 
through March 27, 2016
by Eric Sutter

"Motown-The Musical" is a musical worth seeing at the Bushnell. It is hard to condense the play takes "The Sound of Young America" and meshes it into a 2 1/2 hour musical extravaganza with a complex storyline. It is especially exciting to see the transformation of the cast into the era's superstars. Great melody lines, lush harmonies, soulful dance moves, and elegantly radiant costuming combine to make for good entertainment. "Motown" strikes a nice balance between the rise of Motown brainchild Berry Gordy's (Chester Gregory) story and the music of the artists who turn the stage into Hitsville U.S.A. An invigorating battle of the bands ensues between the cover-groups Temptations and Four Tops with pure fun. Conductor Harold Archibald and the Motown Symphony Orchestra add ethereal qualities to the Motown catalog including the joyous "Dancing In The Street."

Photo by Joan Marcus
Humorous dialogue between Smokey Robinson (Jesse Nager) and Gordy make light fun. Gordy has a special relationship with Diana Ross (Allison Semmes) in which he grooms her style from early Supremes to a blossomed 70's solo artist and movie star. The singer's powerful "Stop, In the Name of Love" is a winner. Ed Sullivan (Doug Storm) makes an unforgettably comic scene-stealer entrance and exit. Act I closes with the funky Edwin Starr rouser "War."

The Temptations enter the stage and treat their audience with "Ball of Confusion" with elaborate scenes from the late 60's in projection on a screen behind the dance. A scene change to the West Coast Hollywood Palace brings forth the sophisticated Supremes' sound of "The Happening." Wonder child Michael Jackson (Leon Outlaw, Jr.) with the Jackson 5 revolutionize the Motown sound in dancing stride to "I Want You Back" and "A.B.C." Incidentally, Outlaw also portrays Stevie Wonder on "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Wow, what a dancer! Berry Gordy's Big Soul dance party continues with the varied hits "Brick House" and "What's Going On?" with smooth Marvin Gaye (Jarran Muse) dance moves. Rick James (Nashad Naylor) even makes an appearance with "Give It To Me, Baby." Fantastic... check out the all-star finale with a Motown 25th Anniversary celebration surprise.