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Jasmine Maslanova-Brown, Trenyce and Quiana Holmes

Broadway Across Canada’s production of Motown the Musical opened to an enthusiastic crowd last night at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The house was packed on a rainy Tuesday to watch Berry Gordy’s book, To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown come to life on stage.

Kenneth Mosley
[Kenneth Mosley]

The show begins at Motown founder Berry Gordy’s home in Los Angeles in 1983 as his stable of Motown stars is busy preparing to mount a 25th anniversary Motown celebration.

We’re soon transported to late 1930’s Detroit, where a young Berry Gordy, inspired by boxer Joe Louis’ big 1938 win over Max Schmelling, dreams of making a difference in the world while bits of Ain’t Too Proud to Beg and Baby I Need Your Lovin are performed.

Cartreze Tucker and cast
[Cartreze Tucker as Stevie Wonder and cast]

What unfolds is the story of Motown as told through music. From start to end, the two-act production portrays a moving and personal look behind the glory, frustrations and iconic moments of a record label so loved that it shaped a culture throughout the world.

Particularly powerful on stage are the Jackson 5 (where we get treated to an awesome light and stage set) and the late 60’s where race riots and the Vietnam war are suitably represented through Motown hits War and What’s Going On.

The Temptations
[The Temptations]

All Motown majors are well cast, from Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Jackson 5 to Diana Ross, with Trenyce portraying Ross’ rise to megastardom.

As Diana Ross, Trenyce’s silky smooth voice and persona are easy to adore, as she grows from The Supremes (Motown’s most commercially successful act) to her solo debut in Vegas.

Kenneth Mosley, Trenyce
[Kenneth Mosley, Trenyce]

Kenneth Mosley does a fantastic job of portraying the label’s founder, Berry Gordy. Justin Reynolds as Smokey Robinson and Matt Manuel as Marvin Gaye shine in their respective roles.

Talented youth performers Kai Calhoun and Chase Phillips are on the roster for portraying young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

Kai Calhoun as Michael Jackson with the Jackson 5
[Kai Calhoun as Michael Jackson with the Jackson 5]

Period attire and backdrops effectively bring the audience to each era, courtesy of Emilio Sosa’s costumes and Charles G. LaPointe’s hair and wigs. The sound and projections are on point with the music, brought to you by sound designer Peter Hylenski and projection designer Daniel Brodie.

Kenneth Mosley

David Korins’ sets are purposefully kept simple, allowing for the talented performers and choreography (recreated for this production by Brian Harlan Brooks) to shine through.

It’ll be a hunt to find the few tickets left for the remaining seven shows. If you’re lucky, you’ll score and enjoy a fine night of Motown classics. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, Motown the Musical continues at the Queen E Theatre through Sunday, February 11.

Photos © Joan Marcus, 2017.

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