Motown comes to town
The soulful sounds of Motown…Broadway in Broward
By Janice Hayes
The extraordinary life story of Berry Gordy, the iconic founder of Motown, hits the stage of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Feb 24–Mar 8, 2015. Mainstream and Social media outlets are blowing up with rave reviews for this blockbuster musical performance. Motown The Musical is one of the most impressive, true stories of all time. As theater-goers race for prime seating to feel the pulsating sounds of Motown, the electrifying show creates an unforgettable experience. This spectacular production tells the riveting journey of Berry Gordy’s rise from start-up to stardom.
Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, the musical features over 40 best-selling hit songs such as “Brick House,” and “Who’s Loving You.” The epic musical drama depicts the story behind some of the greatest entertainment careers launched in the history of Motown which include Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and so many more.
“I was raised on the exhilarating sounds of Motown. Every Saturday morning as we cleaned the house and did other chores, my parents would play various songs from Motown artists. Even though we were small children those songs invigorated us with energy and happiness,” said Martina Sykes, one of the cast playing the roles of Mary Wells, Gwen Gordy and Cindy Birdsong.
Martina Sykes is a Florida native. Like many other outstanding Black singers, she started singing in the church. Ironically, the sounds of Motown started as a sultry mix of gospel and blues. Gordy’s musical genius recognized this mixture as a transcending sound that would bridge racial and cultural divides and bring people together.
In 1959, Mr. Berry Gordy Jr. founded and presided over the musical empire known as Motown. While the automotive industry was building its empire in Detroit, Berry Gordy was carving out his own dream in the music industry. It is unequivocally the most successful Black owned music company in the history of the United States. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and in 2001, he was inducted into the Independent Music Hall of Fame. Berry Gordy is often quoted saying, “You can either be a peon or an icon.”
He inspired hundreds of artist to soar and strive to reach beyond their potential. He did not just talk the talk, but he walked the talk during his heyday while at the helm of the music company he founded. He worked hard and made sacrifices to accomplish the goals he set for himself. He was a natural born entrepreneur. His parents were business owners and encourage him to make his mark on the world.
As a young man, Berry served in the army, competed as a professional boxer and managed a record store. After writing a few songs for local R&B acts, he used all of his resources and ingenuity to start his own company.
All of his Motown music ventures were overseen from a house in Detroit that Gordy named “Hitsville, USA,” which is now the site of the Motown Museum.
Berry Gordy’s sister, was also very instrumental in creating the museum and preserving Motown’s history. She collected and saved hundreds of boxes of Motown memorabilia, original music, posters, and photographs. Motown Records made more than 110 number-one hit songs and countless top-ten records. The astounding success of Berry Gordy’s music empire is unmatched and sure to hail in the annuals of history as one of the greatest achievements that changed the music industry forever.
“The cast consist of some of the most phenomenal talent in the country,” beamed Linda Stewart, the president of “It Is Done,” the public relations and marketing company that oversees the Urban Press for “Motown The Musical” during the national tour.
Linda Stewart may be one of Motown The Musical’s biggest fans. She generously shared information about the cast and crew. “Motown the Musical’s cast include Clifton Oliver and Allison Semmes who star in the leading roles of Berry Gordy and Diana Ross. Portraying groundbreaking Motown artists, Jesse Nager plays Smokey Robinson and Jarran Muse plays Marvin Gaye. Leon Outlaw, Jr. and Reed L. Shannon portrays Berry Gordy’s boyhood counterpart and the roles of young stars Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. The show also features Erick Buckley, Patrice Covington, Christian Dante White, Jamarice Daughtry, Tamar Davis, Lynorris Evans, Melanie Evans, Devon Goffman, Jennie Harney, Latrisa Harper, Rod Harrelson, Robert Hartwell, Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr., Trisha Jeffrey, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Jarvis Manning, Krisha Marcano, Marq Moss, Rashad Naylor, Chadaè Nichol, Ramone Owens, Nicholas Rowe, Jamison Scott, Joey Stone, Douglas Storm, Martina Sykes and Galen Williams. They are all so talented and deliver such a phenomenal performance,” Linda said with sheer excitement.
“The remarkable success of this Broadway smash hit is also a direct result of the great crew members which include the choreographers Patricia Wilcox (A Night with Janis Joplin) and Warren Adams (Toy Story); scenic design by David Korins (Bring It On: The Musical, Annie); costume design by Tony Award® nominee ESosa (The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, “Project Runway”); lighting design by Tony Award® winner Natasha Katz (Once, Sister Act); sound design by Tony Award® nominee Peter Hylenski (Rock of Ages, The Scottsboro Boys); projection design by Daniel Brodie (Jekyll and Hyde); hair and wig design by Charles LaPointe (Memphis) and casting by Telsey + Company; Arrangements and orchestrations are by Grammy and Tony Award® nominee Ethan Popp (Rock of Ages), who also serves as music supervisor in reproducing the classic “Sound of Young America,” with co-orchestrations and additional arrangements by Tony Award® nominee Bryan Crook (“Smash”) and dance arrangements by Zane Mark (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). And the producers which include Tony Award® winning producer Kevin McCollum (Rent, In the Heights, Avenue Q), Chairman and CEO of SONY Music Entertainment Doug Morris , Motown founder Berry Gordy, and Broadway Across America which is part of the Key Brand Entertainment family of companies, which includes Broadway.com and is operated by John Gore (Owner & CEO). BAA is the foremost presenter of first-class touring musicals and plays in North America, operating in 40 markets,” Linda continued to enumerate the names of many others who worked behind the scenes who help set stages on fire all across the nation.
“The entire cast is excited about coming to South Florida and it’s not just the breezy tropical weather,” smiled Martina Sykes. “We are just exuberantly elated to share our talents with the people of South Florida. We believe they are going to fed us their energy and joy. We are looking forward to the loud laughter, love and soulfulness of the community.”
Motown the Musical has something for everyone regardless of your age, race, or culture. The sounds of Motown have continued to inspire generations. Ironically, one of the hottest new television drama’s “Empire” shares a similar story line to the real life story of Berry Gordy. Just as Lucious Lyons, the character played by Terrance Howard, built a mega-business model from a dream. Berry Gordy started with a dream, built a successful business and changed the music industry forever.
We encourage the entire South Florida community to show up and show out for this grand performance and celebrations of one of the most prolific music moguls of the century, Berry Gordy. Motown The Musical is a non-stop train to energetic entertainment and joy.
Tickets are available at the Box Office at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33312, visit www.browardcenter.org or call 1-800-745-3000. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL will play at Broward Center for the Performing Arts February 24 through March 8. Orders for groups of ten (10) or more may be placed by calling (954) 660-6307. For more information, visit www.MotownTheMusical.com. Facebook: www.facebook.com/MotownTheMusical Twitter: @MotownMusical Instagram: @MotownMusical Hashtag: #MotownMusical