Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Uninspired Words Do Injustice to Great Music

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Uninspired Words Do Injustice to Great Music

Article excerpt


New Broadway musical, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St.

Book by Berry Gordy. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright.

With Brandon Victor Dixon, Valisia LeKae, Charl Brown and Bryan Terrell Clark.

Schedule: 7 p.m. Tuesday; 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $57 to $142. 877-250-2929, or

Remember that song from "A Chorus Line" -- "Dance: Ten, Looks: Three?"

"Motown," which opened on Sunday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, is singing: 10, speaking: one.

Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records and one of the preeminent talent finders and hit-makers in the history of American popular music, had the idea of presenting Motown's greatest numbers entwined with the story of his life.

The show's indelible songs, nearly 60 of them (though not every one is sung all the way through), are performed with enormous verve by a large cast of terrifically good imitators.

Starting off with an electrifying battle of the groups, with the Four Tops vying with The Temptations, and going on to include Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight, Mary Wells and nearly every great name in soul and rhythm and blues performing hit after hit, the show's musical drive - with buoyant dances choreographed by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams -- is irresistible.

But then there are those times when the music stops.

Gordy, co-producer of the show, also wrote the book. It's not unexpected, then, that the Gordy character, attractively played by Brandon Victor Dixon, comes off rather well.

He's a genial go-getter who creates careers, combats racism and treats his talent as family.

If he has a fault, it's that he's too controlling, though always in the artists' best interests. Many of the performers chafe at his authority, and offered lucrative contracts by bigger record companies, they leave.

More than how benignly Gordy treats himself, the problem with "Motown" is that he can't write, at least not the book for a musical. (Writers David Goldsmith and Dick Scanlan are credited as "script consultants. …

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