Motown the Musical

Shaftesbury Theatre
Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Previewed: 11 February 2016
Opened: 8 March 2016
Booking up to: 24 February 2018

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Nearest Tube: Totttenham Court Road

Location Map: Street map

Show times
Monday at 7.30pm
Tuesday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 7.30pm
Thursday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday no shows

Runs ? hours and ? minutes

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Premium Seating also available
(plus booking fees if applicable)

Motown the Musical

Berry Gordy's Motown the Musical in London - celebrating the legendary Motown record label live on stage with the songs, the sound and the story of Motown!

The story of how Motown founder Berry Gordy started with just $800 borrowed from his family to go on to head up one of the most famous record companies of all time, discovering and launching the careers of so many musical superstars such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more. While there have been other shows about Motown, this is the only one to have been written by the record label's founder himself, Mr Berry Gordy.

Featuring a book by Berry Gordy and music and lyrics from the legendary Motown music catalog, this stage show will feature an amazing 18-piece orchestra to bring to dazzling life some 50 Motown classic tracks including My Girl, Dancing In The Street, Ain't No Mountain High Enough, I Heard It Through The Grapevine and many more. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright with choreography by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams, set by David Korins, costumes by Esosa, lighting by Natasha Katz and sound by Peter Hylenski. While there have been other shows about Motown, such as Thriller Live: Micheal Jackson and the Jackson 5 currently plying at the Lyric Theatre and Dancing in the Streets, which enjoyed a two year run from July 2005 at the Cambridge Theatre, transferring to the Aldwych Theatre then the Playhouse Theatre, this is the only stage show to have been written by the record label's founder himself, Mr Berry Gordy.

When this production opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre in March 2016, Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph said it was "a lavish, slick, song-crammed show," adding that, "in its triumphant new West End incarnation, it gives a valuable leg-up to a mass of young, gifted and black British talent and puts such a spring in its audience's step, you may well see people dancing in the street along Shaftesbury Avenue." Ian Shuttleworth in The Financial Times admitted that, "of course, it's a joy to hear all those spine-tingling tunes," comcluding that "this is, in both score and narrative terms, one of the strongest jukebox musicals of recent years." Michael Billington in The Guardian commented that "the appeal of this all-too-typical modern musical lies in the capacity of the 50 numbers, many of them severely truncated, to unlock the memories of the baby-boomer generation. The musical's book, based on Berry Gordy's own memoirs, is a shaky vehicle largely designed to facilitate the songs," while "Charles Randolph-Wright directs this particular pop-parade with kaleidoscopic efficiency and there are decent performances all round." Dominic Maxwell in The Times asked: "What's not to like? A hit on Broadway, this chronicle-cum-celebration of Tamla Motown arrives in the West End complete with faithful and dynamic re-creations of some of the greatest pieces of soul pop ever recorded... As a piece of storytelling, though, the sheer number of acts and songs, the sheer amount of history as Gordy builds his business through the 1960s, makes for a show so busy that it can't always feel as if it's coming from the soul," though "this show is always enjoyable, if not always the transcendent hit you long for it to be." Neil Norman in The Daily Express highlighted that "the first half suffers from medley-itis at times. But then the changes in the social and political climate are sketched in including Martin Luther King, the Ku Klux Klan and the protests against the Vietnam War so the songs take on a greater weight and are given more room to breathe." Holly Williams in The Independent wrote: "Well, the tunes are good. Of course the tunes are good... What is doesn't deliver on, however, is the storytelling... Still, the band is tight, the top notes hit, the large ensemble have buckets of sass and groove... however, in order to rattle through that impressive hit parade of 50-odd songs, very few are played in full - which is a real shame," adding that, while "there's no weak link in the strong cast when it comes to belting out the hits - but no-one manages to make the dialogue work either, meaning these characters remain as two-dimensional as the flown-in backdrops." Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard described how "this energetic jukebox musical squeezes 50 infectious songs into two and a half hours... what's missing is a compelling story... of course, the appeal ultimately lies in the songs, so it's disappointing that most have been shortened. Director Charles Randolph-Wright simply keeps the traffic moving." Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail thought that "the first half is a mess - too many songs, several little more than abbreviated verses, and a comically bad script. But then the Jackson Five arrived and the show achieved lift-off.. After that it flew. By the end of the evening there was the requisite sense of goods duly delivered. But it was a close-run thing... Despite the frustrations of the first half, Motown fans and couples out for a boppy night will enjoy this quick-fire shoulder-shimmying show. Five-star songs with two-star storytelling."

"There are plenty of splendid voices in Motown but little else to recommend it... Motown lacks any hint of a coherent narrative. It is no more than a theatrical version of Stars In Their Eyes, with the gifted cast impersonating many of the celebrated acts to have emerged from Berry Gordy's stable... The intervening scenes have as much dramatic interest as album notes... The production looks cheap, with scene after scene played front stage against a background of sliding video screens. But then it is not just the staging that is shallow." The Sunday Express

"Hot from Broadway and with four Tony nominations comes this sizzling account of the Motown story... Although it has some edgy moments and touches on the race issue essentially Motown: The Musical is a big, glitzy string of brilliantly performed pearls strung onto a pretty ropy old necklace... The show races ahead to tell the entire Motown story, with all its complex political and social ramifications, in a little more than two hours, and packs in about 50 songs. Yes, 50. Meaning that not one of them is performed in its entirety. Certain scenes, on the other hand, you are quite glad to see cut short. The drama is not top-quality. But the songs - and the performances - are what make it all worthwhile... The live band, choreography and changing fashions lovingly recreated are all top-notch, and, despite reservations about the story, the music effortlessly overwhelms them." The Sunday Times

"What might have been a leisurely jukebox musical is a frantic, muddled medley, albeit stuffed with terrific sounds, shiny suits and dizzying dancing. There are 50 musical numbers in 140 minutes. Discounting the emaciated dialogue, that's less than three minutes per song, leaving no room to develop either the story or the characters... Still, there's the music - what's left of it - loud and proud and delivered, as it is here, with sequins and sparkle and red-hot exuberance." The Mail on Sunday

"The stars of this infectious musical include Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and The Four Tops. Well, not them obviously, but a talented American and British cast who look and sound (almost) just like the stars launched by Berry Gordy's history-making Motown label. It's a story told to the seemingly endless hits - think of I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Stop! In The Name Of Love, Dancing In The Street - that streamed out of the record company's Detroit house, bought by Gordy for $800 in 1959. Played here by the terrific Cedric Neal, Gordy was motivated by the belief that Motown's music could bridge the racial divide of segregated America and 'make everyone happy'. He was right, of course. But this is not your average biographical show. It's autobiographical, and you have to wonder if in Gordy's mostly admiring version of himself - he wrote the script - we get a truly objective version of his and Motown's history. Still, Charles Randolph-Wright's pumping and relentlessly feel-good show was always going to be about the irresistible Motown catalogue. It's superbly performed here." The London Metro

Berry Gordy says: "I am thrilled to be bringing Motown back to the UK 50 years after our first visit back in 1965 when I came to London for our very first UK tour. Half a century later we are delighted to be returning, this time bringing our story and the Motown sound on stage at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the legendary West End." One of the show's producers, Adam Spiegel explains that "what you're getting is the real story behind some of the best music ever written. Motown is a word that has somehow - both here and across the world - come to mean happiness. Berry Gordy has been involved heavily throughout the process - it's his show. He maybe 85 but he is the most extraordinary physical specimen I've ever seen. You'd think he is 40 years younger."

This musical stage show enjoyed a run of just under two years on Broadway, being nominated for four Tony Awards. Now the original Broadway creative team re-stage this musical especially for London's West End audiences at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

Casting to be announced. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright with choreography by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams, set designs by David Korins, costumes by ESosa, lighting by Natasha Katz, sound by Peter Hylenski and projections by Daniel Brodie.

Motown the Musical in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 11 February 2016 and opened on 8 March 2016.