Motown The Musical - Toronto


The appreciation of good music has always been a part of my life. One of the first things I remember my dad teaching me is reverence for the vinyl record and how to gently place the tone arm down. “Hold it like your holding the hand of a lady,” he would say. Saturdays mornings were for pancakes and cleaning the house while my brother pretended to be the young Michael Jackson and I, with the mop as my microphone, was Diana Ross.  For my family, Motown music is filled with all the memories of the good days -the laughter, the dancing and the singing. Each song brought my parents nostalgia of their own youth; it was almost as if the stories of their lives were connected to each note.  

When I heard that Motown, the Broadway musical, was making a tour stop in Toronto I knew I had to buy my tickets. I thought that the musical would have the same story line as Dream Girls. But, instead it takes from Berry Gordy’s memoir, “To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown”. The musical is a first-hand account of Motown through the eyes from its founder.

It was so hard to just sit still and watch. My mom and I had to sing, dance and clap in our seats. The musical had all our favourite songs; “Ain’t no mountain high enough”, “Baby Love”, “Stop in the name of love” and the list goes on.

The choreography and costumes were exact to the iconic performances. And I can’t image the casting being any better. Leon Outlaw, Jr. did an amazing job playing the roles of the young Berry, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.  And Allison Semmes WAS Diana Ross- hair flips, shoulders action, dainty wrists and all. When performing “Reach out and touch,” she got right into the audience and had everyone holding hands and singing along, just as Diana Ross would.

But the parts of the show that stuck with me the most were the scenes when Berry Gordy (played by Josh Tower)and Marvin Gaye (played by Jarran Muse) were debating the release of “What’s Going On” and later Marvin Gaye singing “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)”. That was the moment I realized that this was not just a Broadway show. It was a history lesson. Motown’s music was part of a greater struggle for peace and equality. It broke barriers. The matinee crowd laughed awkwardly when lines like “trigger happy cops” were said. But, being at the show on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March reminded me of the historical context in which those songs were written. And how, in many ways, we still face those issues today.  

Motown the Musical is playing at Mirvish Princess of Wales Theatre until November 1st. Tickets start at $49.

This is not a sponsored post. The thoughts expressed are honest and my own.