Review: Motown the Musical @ Opera House, Manchester

Stepping into Manchester’s Opera House, Motown the Musical instantly transports you back to the American age of music, culture, oppression and a looming war.

The lights go down and the show opens with the 25th anniversary of Motown Records, where the audience are met with a medley of classics, including I Can’t Help Myself and Get Ready. We are then introduced to distraught music tycoon Berry Gordy before a whistle-stop tour of the company’s history.

Starting in 1938, the plot sees a young Berry being told to be the best version of himself, which in turn ignites his passion to somehow make people smile. As the musical progresses, we follow Barry on his journey from getting his first cheque to start the company from his mother, albeit reluctantly, to signing his first acts and making them stars.

Along the way, those in attendance are treated to classics like My Girl, Baby Love and Stop in the Name of Love from some of the biggest names in Motown.

There’s even a point when the story travels across the world and returns home to join Diana Ross in Manchester for a performance where she is offered a cup of proper Manchester tea.

Even with the nostalgia, the first act ends with troubles arising for the company and an uncertain future for Gordy after a rollercoaster of emotions.

The second half of the show begins in the midst of the Vietnam War and a time of uncertainty for Gordy and his company. Even with the beauty of the set, the glamourous costumes and the nostalgic classics, the musical brings to life the hardships of being an African American.

We see the oppression that faced these musicians from fighting to get onto pop radio, the riots in the streets and the segregation. It reminds you that history can be glamourised and it’s easy to forget what these artists went through to get to the top.

However, there’s always a constant theme of family and how family always sticks together. We’re even introduced to the likes of the Jackson 5 and the evolution of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and especially Diana Ross with some more well-known songs like ABC and Happy Birthday.

By the end of the night, we’re back in 1983 and Berry realises that even those who leave always come back in the end.

What’s a musical happy ending without another amazing medley with Stevie Wonder at the helm?

Even with dark undertones and amazing storytelling, it couldn’t have been brought to life without the talented and charismatic cast. They managed to take the audience out of 2019 and transport them into a different time where you could forget your troubles for even a few hours and get involved in the show.

Motown the Musical is a celebration which blends music, stories and history into one amazing musical with the crowd singing along to every song. No matter how old you are, there’s a song for everyone and it’s impossible to leave the theatre without a smile on your face.

*Motown the Musical is showing at the Opera House, Manchester until Saturday, March 23. You can buy tickets HERE.

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