Just as winter has come to Edinburgh, this lively jukebox musical has arrived at the Playhouse to brighten the long nights and warm our souls with a huge range of Motown hits and dazzling dancing.
The show tells the story behind the Motown record label, founded by Berry Gordy in 1956. The story begins as final preparations are in progress for a party to celebrate the record company’s 25th anniversary. The story is then told in a flashback from the perspective of Gordy – so although the show is filled with songs that were linked to Motown, the main focus is Berry Gordy, which is no big surprise, as the musical is based on his autobiography.
I thought Edward Baruwa – who played the role of Berry – did so well and he was certainly a character I felt we got to know the most. However, it is the songs that are the real focus, with the story stringing them together. There is some reference to events of the 1960s, and a few reminders that racial segregation still existed in parts of the USA at that time.
I’ve looked it up : there are a total of 66 songs in the show. Clearly, this is the reason why most people were there – to hear the music. There was a plenty of audience participation, with singers inviting people to join in. At one memorable point, a member of the audience was invited to come onto the stage and join in with the singer playing the part of Diana Ross. (This probably got the biggest round of applause.)
I personally wasn’t that familiar with the history of Motown and it’s focus on artist development, but I don’t think there was a single song I didn’t recognise. The show successfully (in my view), emphasised Motown’s contribution to the music scene – and told how painful it’s decline must’ve been for so many of those involved.
I took my mum in part, because she’s old enough to remember to 1960s and I knew she’d enjoy the music. But the vast majority of the numbers are such classics that it’s really good fun for anyone. My only gripe was that the sound was so loud – so loud in fact, it was sometimes hard to make out the lyrics. It was just like someone hadn’t quite got the levels right. I was okay though, because Mum knew all the words and was singing along.
So you are looking for something to lift the winter gloom, this is on at the Edinburgh Playhouse until December 8. There are plenty of other good events coming up there – so plan ahead to banish the winter blues.
We were gifted press tickets for the show but all thoughts, words, opinion are my own. Photo accreditation to Tristram Kenton.