Motown the Musical Review

Sheffield Lyceum Theatre – until 30 November 2019

Reviewed by Carla Whittaker


The smash-hit West End show Motown The Musical is currently playing to sell-out crowds at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre until the 30th November 2019. I was exceptionally lucky to be able to get a ticket with my friend in order to review.

The production tells a story of Berry Gordy (Edward Baruwa) and the roller coaster of rags to riches of a journey for the famous Motown record label which launched the professional careers of the timeless favourites of Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Dianna Ross, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson plus many more. The audience are taking on a journey through Motown’s history from its beginnings when Gordy signs his first act Smokey Robinson. We see, the label grows with the signing of more acts having countless hits. It is the signing of the young Diana Ross who captures the heart of Gordy. During one of the performances Diana asks a member of the audience if they would like to join her on stage; one lady volunteered, and both gave a fabulous rendition of Reach Out. The orchestra and musical director accompanied the cast in fifty plus Motown hits including Stop! In the Name of Love, I Heard Through the Grapevine, I’ll be There, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, My Girl, Dancing in the Street plus more had the audience going down memory lane; dancing, singing, whooping and clapping.

For me, a highlight of the show was the energy, passion and enthusiasm of the young Michael Jackson who was outstanding to watch and received a standing ovation at the end.

The production was perfect! It was sleek, and polished, using clever projection and archive footage of iconic event such as the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King really sweep the audience into the nostalgia and right back into all things Motown in order to set context to the issues facing black musical artists during the Motown years.

The onstage chemistry between Gordy and Diana is electric, delivering outstanding, faultless performances. The choreography is sharp, and the choreographers have clearly gone to great lengths to ensure the recreation of classic Motown moves to show case the individual acts. The costumes are incredibly, filled with glitz, glammer and clearly no expense spared to recreate Motown outfits including the shiny suits of the Temptations and the red dress of Diana Ross.

For me, the show was much more than a celebration of Motown, it highlighted issues such as acceptance, racism, strained relationships, acceptance and the problems faced with fame and fortune which often musicians face. Motown the Musical did not disappoint. It was fast paced, professional and took me and my friend down an entertaining journey which left us leaving the theatre dancing and singing in the street!