26th February 2019
Motown the Musical follows the journey of Motown music from the very first meeting between Berry Gordon and Smokey Robinson right through to the start of the solo career of Diana Ross. Accompanied by musical hits synonymous with the record label including Stop! In the name of love and I heard it through the grapevine, this show has the formula for a musical sensation but somehow, it just doesn’t pull it off.
Jukebox musicals can come in many guises, from the storytelling musicals such as The Bodyguard and American Idiot through to the concert style shows such as Let It Be. Some want the audience to get lost in a new story while others want the audience to involve themselves in the show. Motown the Musical didn’t seem sure what it wanted to be, leaving the audience as confused as the show itself and providing many lacklustre interactions.
The interaction increased as the show progressed culminating in audience members being brought up “on stage” (there was mention of them going on stage but they never seemingly made it that far…) to sing along with Diana Ross. Much of the audience got left behind along the way however, and the show never quite brought the whole theatre together.
The cast are undeniably talented although, even that seemed to get lost in this show. Firstly, the orchestra drowned out the songs themselves but also, there were just so many songs, jumping from one to the next, meaning that none of them really stood out.
Equally it seemed that nobody could decide what was more important, the storytelling or the songs so not only did the story get lost in the songs but somehow, the songs also got lost in the story. This is a show that tries to be everything meaning that everything is just average at best.
Motown the Musical has been in the West End for 3 years and I am honestly surprised it has had such a long run but equally, it comes across as a show that has been around for much longer – tired and desperately in need of a refresh.
I think the answer to its success lies in the audience which seemed to be made up primarily of tourists. It has the promise of being an easily accessible show for those who want a London Theatre experience and it is that, and the draw of the captivating and successful music of Motown that has been bringing in the audiences over the years.
For a show that makes the outside of the theatre literally sparkle, the show left me disappointed with not much more than a shimmer.
Motown the Musical is playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 20th April 2019 and is currently touring the UK until 12th October 2019 – visit motownthemusical.co.uk for more info.