The Motown 25 television special was a visual ingrained in my head from childhood. Seeing Michael Jackson bring the moonwalk into everyone’s home as I watched it with my family is something I will never forget. Carpets across America were sure to be worn out from everyone trying to be like Mike. It was my first memory of must-see television. I remember my dad telling me about how he listened to the various performers when he was young. All I could think about was learning that new dance and begging my mom for a jheri curl. Needless to say, I was never allowed to let my soul glow.
Motown “The Musical” starts in Berry Gordy’s living-room right before Motown 25. Preparations are being made for the big telecast and the founder of Motown does not want to attend. Rehearsals of the Temptations and the Four tops are going on as one group tries to outdo the other. We are given a flash back to Joe Lewis fight in 1938 against Max Schmeling. This gives us insight into Berry Gordy’s drive and belief that anything is possible.
Berry Gordy was a high school dropout who tried his hand at boxing, record store owner, car plant worker, and songwriter before getting a loan from his family to start Motown. Intermixed with incredible song performances is the story of local kids entering a small house in Detroit and coming out international stars.
We see artists rise to the occasion and give electrifying performances in hostile conditions of the segregated south. We watch the Motown family’s reaction to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr as they navigate the waters of the Black Power Movement before relocating to California.
The Motown Revue scenes are exactly like my dad describe them. I see why his generation had such fond memories of going to concerts. The musical is a testimony to Berry Gordy’s drive and vision. It also serves its purpose in trying to mend his reputation of cheating his artists out of millions and give a sanitized version of his relationship with Diana Ross. Leads, Clifton Oliver and Allison Semmes capture the essence of Berry Gordy and Diana Ross. Allison nails all of Diana’s mannerisms. There are many versions to Berry Gordy the man. He probably did see himself as a father figure whom took kids with nothing and made them into stars. I sang, I laughed, and I absolutely loved Motown “The Musical.”