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Review Round-Ups

Motown the Musical divides the critics

The Broadway import opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre yesterday evening

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Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage

★★

"Motown The Musical comes across as a muddled vanity exercise by Mr Gordy, still going strong at 86, and here credited as lead producer and librettist."

"The first act of Charles Randolph-Wright's production doesn't know where, or how, to end, and the second act flounders around a big bust-up between Gordy and Marvin Gaye (Sifiso Mazibuko) before subsiding in wide-grin sentimentality at the concert."

"Some of the costumes by Esosa I liked, especially the shiny satin suits and flared skirts, and the sixteen-piece band under Gareth Weedon's musical direction is chilli-pepper hot."

Michael Billington, The Guardian

★★

"Given that Berry Gordy has written, co-produced and is the lead character in this imported American musical, it is clear that the ego has landed. But, eager as I am as the next person to learn more about the Motown mogul, I was disappointed at how little I discovered."

"The music, of course, is what people will go for and it is put across with great pizzazz with the help of a fine pit band under the direction of Gareth Weedon."

"Charles Randolph-Wright directs this particular pop-parade with kaleidoscopic efficiency and there are decent performances all round. Cedric Neal shows Gordy to be a skilful entrepreneur and tireless talent scout without ever quite explaining what drives him on. Lucy St Louis captures Diana Ross's growth from Supremes singer to fame-hungry diva and Charl Brown conveys Smokey Robinson's laid-back charm."

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph

★★★★

"The book, written by Gordy, is, as was noted in New York, the evening's weak spot. The dialogue is sometimes so bald it could use an emergency toupet ("That little Stevie is a wonder"). And it doesn't hit heights of dramatic sophistication as it sketches the growth of the label from its humble Detroit side-street beginnings... and its impact on those involved."

"Among the stand-out performances are Lucy St Louis as Diana Ross, convincingly torn as she makes the break to go solo, and handling an odd bit of audience participation with aplomb. Charl Brown is a bashful and candy-voiced Smokey Robinson; Sifiso Mazibuko a brooding, increasingly politicised Marvin Gaye."

"Confronting us with energy and spirit of that irrepressible order, the show moves beyond being a welcome nostalgia fest and becomes an urgent rallying cry for us all to rediscover our Motown mojo."

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

★★★

"Twelve-year-old Londoner Eshan Gopal, playing the young Michael Jackson, rescued the West End's latest American import as it opened last night. Until Eshan popped up, this jukebox musical was tanking. The first half is a mess - too many songs, several little more than abbreviated verses, and a comically bad script. But then the Jackson Five arrived and the show achieved lift-off, Eshan wowing the audience with his remarkably assured performance as the pre-cocious Michael."

"Despite the frustrations of the first half, Motown fans and couples out for a boppy night will enjoy this quick-fire shoulder-shimmying show."

"Five-star songs with two-star storytelling: Shall we settle for three and a half stars?"

Dominic Maxwell, The Times

★★★

"What's not to like? A hit on Broadway, this chronicle-cum-celebration of Tamla Motown arrives in the West End complete with faithful and dynamic re-creations of some of the greatest pieces of soul pop ever recorded."

"As a piece of storytelling, though, the sheer number of acts and songs, the sheer amount of history as Gordy builds his business through the 1960s, makes for a show so busy that it can't always feel as if it's coming from the soul."

"This show is always enjoyable, if not always the transcendent hit you long for it to be."


Motown The Musical runs at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 18 February 2017.

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