A reviews round-up for Motown the Muscial at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
Broadway’s Motown The Musical has opened to mixed reviews in the West End. With an incomparable back catalogue of songs, what should be the ultimate juke box musical has failed to hit all the right notes. Critics have praised the cast performances including Charl Brown, Lucy St Louis, Sifisio Mazibuko, and Eshan Gopal as the young Michael Jackson, however most note it is Berry Gordy’s lack of fully formed storytelling that stops this musical from being all that it should.
“Superb performances and a gilded back-catalogue make this musical an urgent rallying cry for us all to rediscover our Motown mojo - a lavish, slick, song-crammed show.”
“Among the stand-out performances are Lucy St Louis as Diana Ross, convincingly torn as she makes the break to go solo, and handling an odd bit of audience participation with aplomb. Charl Brown is a bashful and candy-voiced Smokey Robinson; Sifiso Mazibuko a brooding, increasingly politicised Marvin Gaye; Jordan Shaw a shades-wearing, head-nodding simulacrum of Stevie Wonder.” Read more
“The show’s 50 songs are put across with plenty of pizzazz but this account of the music mogul’s rags-to-riches story leaves the key questions unanswered.”
“Charles Randolph-Wright directs this particular pop-parade with kaleidoscopic efficiency and there are decent performances all round.” Read more
“Director Charles Randolph-Wright's sleekly-designed production is absolutely faultless, as is the work of the music department led by musical supervisor Ethan Popp and musical director Gareth Weedon - the ultimate jukebox musical.” Read more
“This jukebox musical has one of greatest set-lists ever… and one of the laziest scripts.”
“The simple fact is that other jukebox musicals set in a similar era – ‘Jersey Boys’, ‘Beautiful’ – do the storytelling thing a lot better. ‘Motown’ has more hits and better hits than both those shows combined. But while Gordy can write music with soul, he doesn’t seem to be able to do the same with his own story.” Read more
"Twelve-year-old Londoner Eshan Gopal, playing the young Michael Jackson, rescued the West End's latest American import as it opened last night. Until Eshan popped up, this jukebox musical was tanking. The first half is a mess - too many songs, several little more than abbreviated verses, and a comically bad script. But then the Jackson Five arrived and the show achieved lift-off, Eshan wowing the audience with his remarkably assured performance as the pre-cocious Michael."
"Despite the frustrations of the first half, Motown fans and couples out for a boppy night will enjoy this quick-fire shoulder-shimmying show."
"Five-star songs with two-star storytelling: Shall we settle for three and a half stars?" Read more
“Lacking smarts as well as soul. Still, the band is tight, the top notes hit, the large ensemble have buckets of sass and groove, and audiences inevitably approach these much-loved songs with a sizeable portion goodwill.” Read more
"What's not to like? A hit on Broadway, this chronicle-cum-celebration of Tamla Motown arrives in the West End complete with faithful and dynamic re-creations of some of the greatest pieces of soul pop ever recorded."
"As a piece of storytelling, though, the sheer number of acts and songs, the sheer amount of history as Gordy builds his business through the 1960s, makes for a show so busy that it can't always feel as if it's coming from the soul."
"This show is always enjoyable, if not always the transcendent hit you long for it to be." Read more
“This energetic jukebox musical squeezes 50 infectious songs into two and a half hours. Paying nostalgic tribute to the soulful sound pioneered by Detroit’s Motown Records, it’s packed with hits by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. What’s missing is a compelling story.”
“Still, wholehearted performances and the zest of a sizeable band led by Gareth Weedon go some way towards compensating for the rickety storytelling. Sifiso Mazibuko makes a charismatic Marvin Gaye, and Charl Brown captures the sweetness of Smokey Robinson’s voice. But the stand-outs are Lucy St Louis, who nails Diana Ross’s determination and breathy vocals, and Eshan Gopal as a young Michael Jackson.” Read more