Motown The Musical doesn’t open in London until February 2016 but it was launched to the media this week at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden hosted by Sir Lenny Henry.
The show which opened on Broadway on April 14th 2013 and ran for over 700 performances, is the story of Motown’s founder Berry Gordy and his iconic record label and he was in London at the launch to take part in a Q&A session curated by Sir Lenny. Also on the panel were director Charles Randolph-Wright and one of the producers, Kevin McCollum.
The evening started with a short film about the history of Motown, followed by a few minutes of very funny Motown-centric stand-up comedy by Henry before the panel were introduced. Most of the talking was done by Gordy with the occasional interjection from the other two panellists. Gordy 85, who was in superb form, often getting one over on Henry, told the story of how he considered himself to be a failure until he was 29, when he started writing hit songs such “Reet Petit” for Jackie Wilson. He then borrowed $800 from his family to form a record label and the rest is as they say, history!
And that history is what’s told in Motown The Musical London, with a book by Gordy and over 50 songs from the remarkable Motown catalogue such as “Stop! In The Name Of Love”, “Dancing In The Street” and “My Girl”. As all the panellists were at pains to point out, the hard part was which songs to leave out. They also pointed out in response to a question from Henry, that the talent in London was incredible and that they had assembled a tremendous cast.
Berry also said that he was delighted that the show was coming to the UK, as the people here had been so good to them when the likes of The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles came over on tour in 1965 as virtual unknowns and that he’d been amazed then that the music coming out of a a small record label in Detroit was popular all over the world – and especially in England.
As part of the evening, we also got to see performances from the London cast as “The Temptations”, “The Supremes” & “Martha” (without her Vandellas) which highlighted how important these songs were for anyone growing up in the 60s and 70s and an audience made up of a lot of media folk who had seen it all before, were soon clapping and singing along.
We also got to see a short scene from the show between “Gordy” (Cedric Neal) and “Diana Ross” (Lucy St Louis) before they sang “You’re All I Need To Get By” as a duet.
There’s no doubt that the launch has whetted the appetite for the show and although the opening is over 4 months away, get your tickets now to avoid disappointment – it’s sure to be a big hit – with all those fantastic songs, how can it fail?
By Alan Fitter
Cedric Neal (Berry Gordy) and Lucy St. Louis (Diana Ross) will lead the cast of Motown The Musical. With music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalogue and book by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Motown the Musical is directed by Charles Randolph-Wright.
Further casting announced includes Keisha Amponsa Banson (Mary Wells), Cherelle Williams (Mary Wilson), Cleopatra Rey (Gladys Knight), Cindy Belliot (Anna Gordy), Aisha Jawondo (Martha Reeves), Samuel Edwards (Jackie Wilson), Brandon Lee Sears (Tito Jackson), Joshua Liburd (Eddie Kendricks) and Simeon Montague (Jermaine Jackson). They are joined by Daniel Bailey, Edward Baruwa, Tanya Nicola Edwards, Eddie Elliot, Portia Harry and Simon Ray Harvey. Final full casting will be announced shortly.
Cedric Neal’s (Berry Gordy) US theatre credits include After Midnight on Broadway, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess on Broadway and for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Dreamgirls for the Signature Theatre for which he won a Helen Hayes Award, The Who’s Tommy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Stagger Lee for the Dallas Theater Center. Neal has also worked at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, American Repertory Theater, Zach Theater and was a recurring character on the television series Friday Night Lights.
Motown The Musical
Booking From: 11th February 2016
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 3.00pm