If you want to listen to music that makes sense and you can understand the words, see wonderful dance routines & reminisce about an era of R&B music that will live forever, then you have to see “Motown the Musical” appearing this week at the Times Union Center in JAX, FL. This writer is so thankful that people kept their seats and didn’t block the view of the stage (as with some concerts) until the end of the performance, where there was a rousing standing ovation throughout the auditorium. Motown the Musical is that good!
There are storylines that tell of the history of Motown (Hitsville USA), the musical acts that were birthed from the motor-city, the romance between a record producer and one of his singers (just like in Dreamgirls), and the struggles of building an empire, are all portrayed in this amazing musical. Some icons from today and those who have gone-on, are alive and well through the characterization of every actor/singer/dancer on the “Motown the Musical” platform.
If Berry Gordy could sing like his character (Chester Gregory) on stage, then Berry should have cut-a-record himself. When Berry Gordy and Diana Ross (Allison Semmes) sang “You’re All I Need To Get By” (made popular by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell) there was romance in the Times Union Moran Theatre atmosphere. If you have a good voice and want to sing with Ms Ross, you may have an opportunity.
Two other leading roles that were prominent in the storyline and their commitment to music came from Tyler Hardwick (with his high-pitched Smokey Robinson voice) along with the fabulous Miracles; and Jarran Muse depicting a suave and later rebellious Marvin Gaye. These two skilled vocalists also held their own with gyrations and scripted lines throughout the night.
It’s been said that children & animals usually steal a show, well, there are no animals in “Motown the Musical,” but J.J. Batteast (young Berry Gordy/Stevie Wonder/Michael Jackson) has proven himself to be a show stealer from the stages of NY to theaters across the US. He ‘tore-it-up’ while crooning “Who’s Loving You” with the rest of the talented Jackson 5 team.
The cast member of “Motown the Musical” perform more than one role during each performance. For instance, actor Rashad Naylor portrayed: Jackie Wilson, Four Top, Contour, Brian Holland, Jackson 5 & Rick James; just as Krisha Marcano played Suzanne de Passe & Florence Ballard. When it came to the finale, you would expect more people to be out taking that final bow. Now that’s talent!
Comprised from the NY production and local musicians, the resounding music that came from the talented 14-piece orchestra was amplified by the humungous sound system that vibrated in the theater. The scenic designs combined with the productions innovative lighting skills transformed the stage from one era to another (1938 – 1983) without difficulty.
“Motown The Musical”
Fri., Apr. 22 8 p.m.
Sat., April 23 2 p.m.
Sat., April 23 8 p.m.
Sun., April 24 1:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Times Union Center Performing Arts
300 West Water St.
Jacksonville, FL 32202