Motown is an iconic record label, created in 1959, by Berry Gordy Junior.
Based in Detroit, Michigan, his company was responsible for spotting and nurturing solo artists and groups such as The Commodores, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, The Jackson 5, Martha & The Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and The Supremes. Motown, it should be noted, also influenced such international artists as The Beatles, The EasyBeats, and Dusty Springfield.
From the outset, trumpets, saxophones, guitars, drums, tambourines and other forms of percussion, underscored and defined the brand’s unique pop and rock beat. It is no surprise that Motown’s vibrant musical perspective, really spoke to America’s youth as well.
Motown’s definitive style is currently riding a new wave of popularity, with musicals such as Beautiful, Jersey Boys, and Memphis, introducing new generations to its pumping vibe on Broadway, the West End, and of course, Australia.
The talented cast, band, and technical crew, form an experience which not only allows audiences to enjoy this iconic sound as it should be heard, it is a chance for the tight-knit team to showcase their impressive musical, performing, and staging abilities, too.
Motown Live is deliberately paced in structure. The accessible format is fun and easy to digest, with fast facts about the Motown family of stars prefacing every song or medley.
Sharp, detailed choreography makes full use of the floor area. Potentially drawing on dance elements used by the original artists being celebrated in this tribute, high energy movement captures both the mood and feel of that time period to perfection.
Stage design consisted of a silver streamer curtain, with a coloured electronic grid positioned at its base, and timed spotlighting, too. Strong sound design provided a clear balance between the singers and the backing band.
Costumes for the male and female performers were bright, shiny, tailored, and era-specific. At times I felt like I was watching a televised studio recording of American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show, or Soul Train, brought to exacting life.
In this two-concert return season, seven rising musical theatre stars on the local professional scene (Anna Francesca Armenia, Henry Brett, Rachel Bronca, Jacqueline Irvine, Jordon Maher, Nik Murillo and James Terry) combined forces with six instrumentalists (consisting of keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, drums, saxophone and trumpet). Together, they brought stadium-sized fireworks to the relative intimacy of Chapel off Chapel’s Loft space.
With a 75 – minute running time, the jam-packed set list included such hits as:
- Get Ready.
- Dancin’ In The Street.
- Do You Love Me?
- Heat Wave.
- Heard It On The Grape Vine.
- What’s Goin’ On?
- Natural Woman.
- I Want You Back.
- Baby, Now That I’ve Found You.
- Mr Postman.
- Son Of A Preacher Man.
- You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.
- Baby Love.
- Where Did Our Love Go?
- Stop, In the Name Of Love.
- You Keep Me Hangin’ On.
- Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
- Can I Close The Door On Love?
- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
The vocalists performed as a collective, as well as solo, in pairs, trios, quartets, quintets and more. Each tune was given 150 percent, allowing every singer their moment to shine throughout the show.
Some of the many highlights included:
- Henry Brett’s soulful renditions of ‘Baby, Now That I’ve Found You’, and ‘Can I Close The Door On Love’
- James Terry’s & Jacqueline Irvine’s rousing version of ‘Do You Love Me?’, made famous by the motion picture classic, Dirty Dancing.
- The ladies singing up a storm with ‘Heat Wave’ and ‘Respect’
- The guys singing a version of ‘Mr Postman’ like The Beatles, followed by the ladies’ reprising it in the style of The Marvelettes.
- The ensemble’s powerful finale, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’.
It was clear at the performance I reviewed, the capacity audience thought this delightful and involving concept was an absolute winner. Here’s hoping another season is in the works very soon.