How Motown the Musical is like Evil Dead: What you Need to Know to Enjoy the Show
Anyone who has ever heard of Motown is bound to consider watching a full musical performance dedicated to its story. Several of Motown’s artists’ histories have been made into TV and studio movies. How could a story featuring all of them be anything but great?
The answer is: have Barry Gordy write it. According to a number of critics, Gordy brings mediocrity to his own story. BUT there are still fantastic elements of this musical. AND judging by America’s fascination with cheesy cinema, Motown the Musical may be a diamond in the rough…if you approach it with the right attitude.
Let’s start with the good. Critics overwhelmingly agree that the cast is sensational. Many characters, like Diana Ross, have a complexity that takes a heap of talent to get right, and the actors are nailing it.
The cast is also doing right by the beloved music. Along with a highly-praised pit orchestra, the singers bring vibrant soul to these classics. Let’s be honest – if you’re going to do a musical about Motown, the singing and dancing better be flawless. No one attends this play without a list of songs he or she expects to hear.
That list of songs, however, is where Gordy went overboard. The full musical features about 60 songs, and one truncated version still included about 50 songs. There’s no doubt each is worthy of being performed, but songs can’t carry a show, and they need to fit the story.
This brings us to the most criticized element of Motown the Musical. Gordy’s inexperience writing a play is quite obvious according to, well, all the critics. The dialogue is cheesy, the minor characters are underdeveloped, and the story is very flat. So, you know, the other important piece of a musical – the plot – is not the least bit impressive.
On the other hand, is it possible the book is so bad that it’s funny? If your friend tells you to watch the original Evil Dead, he isn’t recommending it because it’s good cinema. People love this terrible movie because it’s laughably bad. Could Gordy have written such a bad story that it’s actually awesome? Maybe if the audience expects a comedy, this play is a huge success!
So if you’re just interested in hearing the music of Motown, you stand a chance of enjoying this musical. If you also have a sense of humor that finds delight in the failures of writers, this might be the best thing you see this season.
Either way, for most shows, you can find downtown parking for only $6, which is always a win. The show is at the Orpheum Theatre from July 11 – 16. Tickets are $49 – $134. The Park and Shop ramps near the venue cost $6 after 4 pm Monday – Saturday and all day Sunday.