Not Worth The Hype: MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL at the Shaftesbury Theatre

I categorically do not like jukebox musicals, so I feel like that's something I might need to start this review with. There is something about them that really does not appeal to me and I think there are only about three of them that I truly like, so I knew before I even went into this show that I wasn't going to love it and unfortunately, my predictions were correct on this particular evening.

Motown is obviously the story of how the Motown record label was created by Barry Gordy and the story that follows is basically a series of musical numbers showing all of the different acts joining onto the record label and how it expanded and eventually failed over the years. The story is a weak one and doesn't have many surprises in there at all, but it holds up the selection of music well enough and does the job for a very music-heavy piece. And by music-heavy, I mean very music-heavy: the show is approaching three hours in length and with not much standalone dialogue in the piece, that is a solid few hours of Motown hits on repeat, which is exactly what the audience are into.

The full company of Motown: The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Despite there being so many of them, the performances of the songs are absolutely fantastic and this cast's stamina and ability to keep at such a high level of energy throughout a whole week of that show is fantastic: credit where credit's due. There aren't really any standouts in the cast because all of them are incredibly talented, but Lucy St Louis is absolutely fantastic as Diana Ross. Her number in the second act when she interacts with audience members is genuinely hilarious and she really does radiate a natural energy of a star.

The scale of the piece is lacking and that's probably something to blame on the stage design but again, it does seem appropriate for a piece where the majority of the audience are simply here to hear the music they love being performed. The scenic design is the work of Tony Award-nominee David Korins who also recently designed the set for Hamilton, but his work lacks here and isn't impressive in the slightest. On the most part, the only thing that seems to build the atmosphere on stage other than the cast are the costumes by Esosa and the lighting design by five-time Tony Award-winner Natasha Katz, both of which are beautiful to look at.

The Jackson 5 in Motown: The Musical

All in all, I don't see the hype for this show whatsoever, but I guess that's because jukebox musicals are not my cup of tea. If you're a fan of the genre though and a fan of the Motown record label, I can see this being right up your alley. The perfect Christmas gift for someone with those interests perhaps, but I'd avoid it otherwise.

No comments