Review: Motown the Musical, Mayflower Theatre

Motown the Musical opened at Mayflower Theatre with a performance in which the audience may not have
been Dancing in the Street, but were certainly dancing on their feet by the end of it. The show follows Tamla Motown founder, Berry Gordy, as it uncovers the true story of the legendary record label that changed music history and created the soundtrack of a generation, discovering and launching the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more along the way.
Transported through 25 years of Motown, Charles Randolph-Wright’s production features a live orchestra
playing 50 Motown tracks including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, I’ll Be There, Stop! In The Name Of
Love, My Girl and I Heard It through the Grapevine. Edward Baruwa gives a strong performance as Gordy, capturing the emotions of a career that was formed alongside the Civil Rights Movement in a difficult political landscape – which is shown with the use of archive footage of iconic events from the time, including the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Diana Ross, played by Karis Anderson, enthrals with performances that not only capture the audience, but
the heart of Berry Gordy. And, at one point two ‘volunteers’ from the audience, Tim from Andover and Lisa from Southampton, join her on stage to sing Reach Out and Touch. Nathan Lewis had a great stage presence as he portrayed Smokey Robinson, but for me the stand out star of the night had to go to Shak Gabbidon-Williams, who played Marvin Gaye in a punchy and passionate performance that was hard to beat. His rendition of What’s Going On at the end of the second act was full of emotion and felt far more relevant than it should in a world that is supposed to have moved forward.
In all, the whole cast delivered a powerful and embroiled feel-good show that deserved its standing ovation.
What a show!
Motown the Musical runs until Saturday 12 October, tickets available now via Mayflower Theatre Box Office
telephone: 02380 711811 or online at