Reach out... and the pop hits of great Motown legends will be there
Jackie Butler previews a show that celebrates the hits of Detroit pioneers.
Motown was a record label that didn't just make successful music – it also made history.
Founder Berry Gordy and the black artists he signed played a significant role in the racial integration of popular music with a catalogue of hits that poured out of Detroit from the early 1960s.
Many of those songs – and the singers who delivered them – have become classics of contemporary sound, embraced and celebrated all over the world. So there were very rich pickings to plunder for the US celebratory show which is back on tour on this side of the pond and heading for the Devon seaside next week.
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The Magic of Motown returns to Torquay with its I'll Be There 2013 Tour – a show packed with 36 back-to-back hits originally delivered by a stellar line-up including the Temptations, the Supremes, Four Tops, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie.
This year is a very special one as far as Motown is concerned, according to show producer Michael Taylor.
"It marks 50 years of number one hits from the world's favourite record label," he says.
In 1963 Motown was regularly topping the charts in the United States. Songs like Heat Wave by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, You Really Got a Hold On Me by The Miracles, It Should've Been Me by Kim Weston, Fingertips Pt 2 by Little Stevie Wonder and Can I Get a Witness by Marvin Gaye paved the way for the label's meteoric rise.
To mark this occasion – and with a nod to Stevie Wonder – the producers and cast are preparing to sign, seal and deliver the biggest production in the show's ten-year history.
Here's just a snapshot of the three dozen songs on the menu – most of which I could sing along to: Stop in the Name of Love; Signed, Sealed, Delivered; My Guy; What Becomes of the Broken Hearted; I Heard it Through the Grapevine; Endless Love; All Night Long; I'm Coming Out; Why Do Fools Fall in Love; Get Ready; Ain't Too Proud to Beg; My Girl; I Want You Back; I'll Be There; Blame it on the Boogie and Dancing in the Street.
"There's dazzling dance moves and glittering costumes galore," says Michael. "Plus the incredible Magic of Motown band, tighter than Motown's house band the Funk Brothers in their prime.
"Five-star performances authentically revive the style and sophistication of all the Detroit legends," he adds. "Sadly, many of the original Motown artists are either no longer with us or no longer touring. This is the nearest you'll get to authentically capturing their incredible musical legacy in a live show.
"Our young cast is able to reflect the exuberance and excitement of these songs as they were originally performed."
Equal care is taken to reproduce the original stylish look of the Motown stars on stage. It wasn't just the music that set Berry's signings apart from all other hit singers of the time. For mass market appeal, artists' images were carefully controlled – from dress and choreography, right down to their manners.
Male lead and choreographer Andre Lejaune says: "With many new numbers added to our already hit-packed show we needed to ensure the choreography was right on point.
"The show is called The Magic of Motown for a reason, it's our job to ensure theatregoers have a truly magical night to remember," adds the singer, who comes from Florida.
The Magic of Motown is at the Princess Theatre, Torquay for one night only on Saturday, August 24. Call the box office for tickets.