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Motown The Musical at Alexandra Theatre Birmingham - Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Supreme song and dance in show on the history of Motown
Featuring a non-stop soundtrack of hits from Marvin Gaye to The Supremes, the first ever UK and Ireland Tour of Motown The Musical has roared its way into Birmingham.

Motown the musical birmingham
The sounds of Motown come to Birmingham


Making its home at The Alexandra Theatre until 3 November this show is a mini-biography of Motown founder Berry Gordy, in a similar vein of what musical Buddy! did for Buddy Holly.

Gordy is a fascinating character that deserves the recognition - he scraped together $800 from his family and managed to use that to go from a featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul, discovering and launching the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more.

Motown the Musical uncovers the true story of the legendary record label that changed music history and created the soundtrack of a generation amid the civil rights movement in America.

With that in mind, this show is ultimately about the music and the live orchestra is a nod to that. The excellent musicians support the impressive cast of fine singers as they work through a playlist of 50 Motown hits - making it impossible not to sing, dance or toe-tap along.

Set amid the backdrop of changing times in America, the soundtrack fits in alongside police racism at a concert in Alabama, the deaths of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the Vietnam War. There's a particularly powerful lead into the interval when rioting after Luther King's death is accompanied by Marvin Gaye's character singing What's Going On?

The other consistent theme throughout the story is the relationship between Gordy and his protégée Diana Ross.

This show has been created with Berry Gordy as a producer and it's very much slanted towards his view of events, particularly when it comes to the fated relationship with Ross. She comes across as an ambitious prima donna who leaves him behind on her road to superstardom. It's interesting, considering the plot in the other big stage Motown-related musical, Dreamgirls - rumoured but denied by the writers to be loosely based on the difficult relationship between The Supremes and their manager.

Motown the musical uk tour birmingham
Find out how Motown was created


The storyline is fascinating but it's the great soundtrack of tunes - from Dancing In The Street, Stop! In The Name Of Love, My Girl, My Guy, plus a medley by The Jackson Five and much more - that makes this show stand out.

There's also a lavish, slick hi-tech set that screens images on backdrops and even concludes with footage of the real-life singers and Gordy at the finale of the show to Ain't No Mountain High Enough.

Charles Randolph-Wright is behind this production and its success is due to the singing talent in its cast, who play various iconic stars from Smokey Robinson to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Natalia Brown, Karis Anderson and Olivia Hibbert play The Supremes and their voices are unbelievably powerful, particularly Anderson's as Diana Ross.

Edward Baruwa playing Berry Gordy is the highlight of the show. His acting and singing are both impressive and he has a natural charisma on stage. While Shak Gabbidon-Williams has a lovely gentle voice as Marvin Gaye.

Motown the musical birmingham uk tour
The acclaimed musical is on its first UK tour


Tony-nominated, Motown the Musical has been making itself known for around five years. It premiered in New York in 2013 before opening in London's West End in 2016.

Now the rest of the country has the chance to enjoy the show as it embarks on its first UK tour.

It's a supreme show, a musical overflowing with that Motown rhythm that plays straight into your heart and soul.

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Why? See musical full of Motown hits
When: Until 3 November
Phone: 0844 871 7633
Where: Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham,
Cost: £15-£75
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