Last night AKM and I had a chance to see Motown the Musical at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre – which has been open since April 2013 and closing in January 2015.
Honestly, Motown was not really on my list of shows to see. When you live in New York, you really have to pick and choose which shows you’ll see – otherwise, you’ll go broke. I had an opportunity, though, to get free tickets using some of my Audience Rewards points (as well as two other shows you’ll see here later in the month). I mention this, only because I do think sometimes ones enjoyment of a show is directly tied to how much was spent on it. I think people like crappy shows (which this is not) more simply because they spent $150 on it and thus feel that it must be good because they spent so much money….
Overall Motown was a very fun night at the theatre. It, naturally, reminded me of favorite shows such as Smokey Joe’s Cafe and Jersey Boys – though they have nothing in common except for using a preexisting catelogue of music. Though the guy in front of us was trying to convince his date that this was exactly like Jersey Boys – having seen both – it’s not – by a long shot.
Motown tells the story of founder Berry Gordy’s rise and sort-of fall over a nearly 30+ year span. I had read some other reviews that found the story muddled and hard to follow – though not the greatest book – I had no problem keeping up and even investing in some of the emotion of the story.
Naturally, the music is spectacular – they touch on nearly 50 classic Motown songs (plus a few shaky originals for the show). The massive cast (including two awesome FSU grads) worked their tail off and really helped carry the show forward.
The only thing that put me off – and not necessarily in a bad way – just odd – was how real each person was portrayed. Smokey, Stevie, Diana, kid Michael, etc looked exactly like they do (did) in real life. It’s uncanny. The issue was that early in the show this took some getting used too – the beginning is a bit choppy and when a quick book scene is followed by a concert performance you can’t help but feel you’re moving suddenly in a Vegas showroom watching a (high quality) revue. The cast, though, did a great job moving between these numbers and quickly back into the story – or sometimes using the songs to move the story.
There were a couple of occasions where they tried to break the fourth wall during the performance and get the audience to participate – not sure if it was just our crowd or not – but it certainly took some work from the actors to get us involved. I think this is simply because in all of the other “concert” performances they weren’t necessary performing to us – we were just watching, as if in a documentary. So, when suddenly they are performing to this house – it takes a minute for the crowd to realize it – but also leaves a, “why now?” question.
Overall – very fun and I’d recommend – certainly enjoyed it much more than I expected … (or was that because it was free?)……