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Motown: The Musical Unites all Ages in Music Appreciation at Altria Theater

You certainly don’t need to be a baby boomer to appreciate the music of Motown, but you do need a ticket to Motown: The Musical to relive some of the music world’s greatest hits.

Now playing at Altria Theater, this high-energy show tells the true story of Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy, who at an early age was determined to be the best he could be.

MoTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour (C) Joan Marcus, 2014
MoTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour
(C) Joan Marcus, 2014

Gordy takes the label from unknown to legendary. The music and the artists generated by Gordy are not only part of music history, but also America’s history over the past fifty-six years.

The show features approximately sixty of Motown’s most recognizable songs, as well as a handful written by Gordy and Michael Lovesmith for the production. And if those tunes don’t get your feet tapping and your body moving, nothing will.

The first act lays the foundation for the production. While extremely entertaining, it occasionally feels rushed because it has to pack in about thirty years of history and the songs and performances that go with it. By the second act, the production has found its rhythm, and wow, what a rhythm it is. The energy and enthusiasm explode on stage.

This large cast is extremely talented and represents each Motown artist with skill and finesse. Allison Semmes absolutely nails the role and the look of Diana Ross. She has every mannerism down. Chester Gregory is quite convincing as Berry Gordy, the songwriter and businessman. He energizes the stage throughout the almost two-hour-and-45 minute show.

The Jackson Five, MoTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour (C) Joan Marcus, 2014
The Jackson Five, MoTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour
(C) Joan Marcus, 2014

One of the highlights of the show on opening night was young Leon Outlaw Jr. who appeared as Michael Jackson (as well as young Berry Gordy and Little Stevie Wonder – the roles are shared during the Richmond run by Outlaw and Nathaniel Cullors.) Outlaw’s performance was mesmerizing and spot on. You would have thought you were watching the first televised clips of Michael Jackson.

Another fabulous moment: The interaction between Diana Ross and members of the audience, when the legendary singer (and yes, by this point, Allison Semmes has you absolutely convinced she is Diana Ross) sings “Reach Out and Touch” with brave (and very talented!) fans.

This show wouldn’t be the same without its fantastic staging and lighting. The two combine to create dazzling backlit silhouettes that bring back the nostalgia of Motown. Combinations of red, whiten and black suggest elegance as well as power.

Motown: The Musical will liven up your night. It will make you think consider the power of music that unites us all. It will have you reminiscing and singing along. And at the end, it will have you on your feet. The show runs through Sunday at Altria Theater with tickets ranging from $38 to $88. Recommended for ten and up. Click here for tickets and showtimes.

An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.

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