Happy birthday ‘Motown’

Brandon Victor Dixon as Berry Gordy, left, and Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross in “Motown: The Musical,” performing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York.
AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus, file

One year ago, “Motown The Musical” opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway. The exact date was April 14, 2013. Billed as “the real story of the one-of-a-kind sound that hit the airwaves in 1959 “ the music “changed our culture forever.”

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, “Motown” stars Brandon Victor Dixon (Berry Gordy), Krystal Joy Brown (Diana Ross), Charl Brown (Smokey Robinson) Bryan Terrell Clark (Marvin Gaye) Raymond Luke (Michael Jackson/Stevie Wonder) and a cast of talents that continue to recall audiences one year later to learn more about the pioneering mid-western music label.

Audiences were promised the music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalogue however since opening they have gotten more than they bargained for with insider peeks into the personal life of the label’s founder Berry Gordy. Culled from his book “To Be Loved,” musical snippets bolster the show that has been recalling celebrities, tourists, fans and music insiders to glean insight into what made the label a success. New audiences are also discovering that the former featherweight boxer emerged to preside over America’s iconic singers to include: Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Martha & The Vandellas, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells and a catalogue of others. That alone could well have formed the basis for an entire storyline. However, by the second act audiences learn that among Gordy’s signees was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? Apparently speeches and recordings by the Civil Rights leader were among the deals Gordy brokered for one of his many subsidiary labels. King was indeed among the elite Motown roster. While that information may not be widely known Gordy’s love story with Ross, their love child, Rhonda, racism within the music industry, Civil Rights obstacles and encounters with the Ku Klux Klan and a myriad of other enlightening back stories account for the successful run in this compelling production. Wrapped around a reunion anniversary celebration concert tagged “Motown 25” stories unfold about the city, state and its talent pool of young, Black music artists. George Romney was governor of Michigan then and life for Blacks was not as rosy as it is his for his son Mitt who aspired to the high office of president of the United States. But despite the obstacles Gordy persevered and with his dedicated executives, songwriters, musicians, singers, choreographers, and a sophisticated color-blind listening audience he charted better than major record labels even surpassing many with five songs claiming Billboard Magazine’s weekly Top 10 position.

It is no wonder an 18-piece orchestra reprises those hits during each performance. Known then as the Sound of Young America, music selected for the stage production and the original cast album was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

The first national tour launched after Easter in Chicago at The Oriental Theatre. It will run until Aug. 9 before continuing across the country ending in Charlotte, NC on Sept. 6, 2015.

“Motown The Musical” continues here at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th St. daily Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday at 2:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

Catch You On The Inside!

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