Wednesday, June 03, 2015
If there ever was a bulletproof Broadway show it’s MOTOWN THE MUSICAL. The Motown music is just so remarkable and timeless that you can put it with one of the worst books in the history of Broadway and it will still please. Those are HIT songs.
Happily, the cast was terrific. They did every song justice – singing and dancing their guts out. I thought Allison Semmes sang Diana Ross songs better than Diana Ross (and she probably didn't sleep with half the ensemble). The production was top notch. Lots of screens and sets flying in and out.
According to the musical, Berry Gordy was a loving father-figure to all these artists, a creative genius, a visionary, and his importance to the black community is the same as Joe Lewis’. And all of his artists and song writers betrayed him by leaving for better opportunities. He was “Broadway Danny Savior.” Everything he did, he did for them. If he had a fault it was that he cared too much. Yeah, and the Menendez Brothers deserve a lighter sentence because they're orphans.
The truth? Not to take anything away from Gordy's enormous accomplishments and contributions to the music industry and popular culture, but he signed his artists to horrible deals. He demanded they signed their contracts as is right there in his office. They were not allowed to consult an attorney. They were not allowed to go out and make a phone call. And he sent them out on roadshows that were torture. Little wonder that when their contracts were up they fled for greener pastures.
The few white characters in the musical are portrayed as racists and money-grubbers. Ed Sullivan is shown in the best light – as a complete buffoon.
But the most cringe-worthy moment is this: He’s having a big fight with Marvin Gaye. At one point Marvin yells at him. “You’re not my father! I have a father!” Um… did anyone else in the audience realize Marvin Gaye’s father shot him to death? I might have dropped that line (not that he took any notes). And then the irony that when Diana Ross wants to leave him he argues she’ll just be surrounded by yes men. She needs someone to say “no.” So do you, Berry!
But none of that seemed to matter. Like I said, the music is so strong and even though the shit is piled high, there ain’t no mountain high enough to spoil that song catalog.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM