Mowtown the Musical is not Dreamgirls and it is not meant to be. Where Dreamgirls is a thinly veiled retelling of the behind the scenes rise of the Supreme's and the sometime dirty dealings of the fictionalized label boss, Mowtown the Musical makes clear for Gordy it was always all about the music.
In Mowtown Gordy tells us the story of the music and label he created that not only changed the face of music forever, it tore down walls between the races all across America.
Mowtown is a jukebox musical filled to the edges with over 60 Motown hits. Putting so many songs into the shows nearly two and a half hours leaves little time for Gordy's story so you have to imagine what story he does tell here is what is most important to the legendary music man. I was surprised by how much of the story he wanted to tell was about his love affair with Diana Ross.
The story starts and finishes with the Mowtown 25th anniversary Television special, you remember the one, it is where Michael Jackson famously first performed the Moonwalk (though that is not recalled here). The many performances in between gave me the feeling I was sitting in the audience of a live television special.
The extensive song list includes some 66 songs, forcing many songs to be shortened to mere highlights, we get the hook, but this does not take away from the immense power even a truncated version of a Mowtown song still holds.
The show is chock full of stellar performances by an incredible cast portraying far to many legendary artists to name here. Highlights include portrayals of Stevie Wonder at his keyboard, an all to short appearance by Gladys Knight performing her version of “I heard It Through The Grapevine”. The recreation of the Jackson five performing on the Ed Sullivan Show was a thrill to see. Watching young Nathaniel Cullors as eleven year old Michael Jackson was like what it must have been like to have been in that Sullivan audience in 1969. He was brilliant. Sullivan himself even makes an appearance and it is great fun.
Mowtown's touring cast, many from the original Broadway cast, does not contain a weak link. The many performances recreating some of the most famous artists in history never disappoints, without exception the performances are spot on. That said, this show belongs to Allison Semmes as Diana Ross and Josh Tower as Berry Gordy.
Semmes reminds us of a Diana Ross that was bubbly and lovable and lacked the attitude of the woman we all know now demands you call her Miss Ross and famously keeps audiences waiting for the privilege of seeing her perform.
Tower fleshes out a man the changed not only the face of music but played a major part in the coming together of Black and White in a time when it was unheard of. A time when the most vocal in our country did not want mixing of the races. He recognized that one thing we all have in common regardless of color is a love of good music. He used music to bring people of all colors together. Here we get to learn a little more about the man behind the music from his own perspective.
Mowtown is a feel good musical that I promise will leave you with a smile on your face and a song on your lips. This is the most fun I have seen an audience have since Book of Mormon.
Mowtown the Musical plays the Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Downtown Dallas through Sunday, August 16th. Tickets are $30-$150 and are available at http://attpac.org/
Please login or register to add comments