Motown the Musical brought down the house and closed out the 2015-2016 of Broadway San Jose with a bang.
Motown the Musical chronicles the life and times of the legendary Barry Gordy (Chester Gregory), primarily during his time as the founder and head of Motown Records. While there is a loose story highlighting Barry’s motivation to get into the music business, his relationship with Diana Ross, and the later struggle to keep Motown records afloat, you never really get a sense of who he truly was.
There are over 50 Motown songs performed throughout the course of the show, albeit many of them are shortened. The story line, while light was much appreciated. Going to see a Broadway show that is nothing more than a series of covers (no matter how well done) is not nearly as satisfying as having a story to tie it all together. The backdrop of what was happening historically made numbers such as Smoky Robinson’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (performed by Jesse Nager) and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” (a brilliant Jaaran Muse) even more powerful to watch.
It’s a lot of pressure to perform so many iconic songs, but the cast was fantastic and tremendously talented. With the exception of a few acts, each cast member performed convincingly enough to make you believe you were witnessing the original. Trisha Jeffrey is magnificent at Diana Ross, solidly playing her as both a young aspiring Supreme and as the powerfully charismatic solo superstar. Perhaps the most spot on performance of the night came from J.J. Batteast as the young Michael Jackson. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought I was actually watching the Jackson 5 perform.
45 years pass from the start of the story to the finish. Along with witnessing the rise and fall of Motown Records, we see a black man succeed despite the racism of the industry, major historical events such as race riots, the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam War. Most importantly, the audience gets to experience the music of the Motown era…and it is good. The show concludes with arousing version of “Dancing in the Streets”, which will leave you doing just that.
The San Jose engagement of Motown the Musical is presented by Broadway San Jose and is playing now through June 26. Tickets are available at www.broadwaysanjose.com or at the box office located at the Center for Performing Arts (255 Almaden Blvd.) or by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787).