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REVIEW: TPAC’s “Motown: the Musical”

“Motown the Musical” showed at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall this week from Tuesday to Sunday.

The story follows the true events of the life of Berry Gordy, the mastermind behind the record label famously coined, “Hitsville U.S.A..” The label launched the careers of culture-shaping artists like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye.

After showing the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the musical portrayed the struggle African-Americans went through to create music and work in business.

This way of telling their stories was an important way of allowing the audience to understand the legacy these artists left by destroying the notions of how and where music created by African-Americans could be played.

Aside from the interweaving of excitement and fear during the character’s careers, the stage design perfectly captured the ‘70s aesthetic of bright, neon colors, shapes and animations. Many of the musical numbers performed were replicated from their television days.

The musical did a great job making it feel like you were truly there, watching these performers as they were back in their heyday.

The actress portraying Diana Ross joined us in the audience to take volunteers to sing “Reach Out and Touch,” and instructed the audience to join hands and sing the song together. It felt more like a live music performance than a Broadway musical.

“Motown the Musical” has been the most immersive and realistic performance at the TPAC I have seen.

The line between Broadway musical and live performance was blurred, and the characters were so committed to their parts that at some points the audience felt as if they were truly there watching Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and all the rest that shaped the musical taste of this great era.

This article was written by Erik Gleim

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