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Review: Motown the Musical in Dallas, Texas

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Crowd Pleasing Motown Hits in Dallas, Texas

There was no second guessing needed to tell if the Dallas, Texas audience enjoyed Motown the Musical. From the moment the curtain lifted, people were clapping, whooping, and dancing in their seats.

Based on a 1994 autobiography by Motown founder, Berry Gordy, this jukebox musical is chock full of toe-tapping nostalgia. With everything from “Baby Love” and “My Girl,” to “Brick House” and “Super Freak,” Motown the Musical packs in well over 50 major hits from the past 50 years.

The show includes all the songs you remember, plus a few you may have forgotten. As my husband remarked afterwards, “I didn’t realize I was such a Motown fan.”

 

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Nostalgia Trumps Story

While I learned a lot about Motown and certainly gained respect and admiration for Berry Gordy’s impressive accomplishments, Motown the Musical offers more of a Cliffs Notes version of events than an actual story.

The show is fast-paced and plenty of things happen, but not in a way that connects the audience to the story. Even big events in history (i.e. the assassinations of JFK and Dr. King) serve more as a contextual backdrop than an emotional framework, and the actors, while talented, play caricatures rather than fully realized characters.

During intermission I realized that unlike other jukebox musicals I’ve reviewed, such as Jersey Boys and Green Day’s American Idiot, when it comes to Motown the Musical, what matters is the viewer’s personal connection to each song; the storyline is beside the point. For instance, while waiting in line, I overheard a man tell his grandson that every time he hears “Dancing in the Streets” it takes him back to when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1968 and he and his friends were literally dancing in the streets to celebrate.

As I looked around at the mostly Baby Boomer audience, I realized these Motown hits truly were the soundtrack for the audience member’s own lives, and that the deeply personal connection this created to the music is what matters in this case.

In other words, what Berry Gordy lacks in writing an emotional story, he definitely makes up for with a crowd-pleasing set list!

Talented Cast

This fast-paced show is well cast and performances are uniformly good. Josh Tower makes an energetic Berry Gordy, while Allison Semmes ( Twitter: @ladysemmes) does a great job conveying Diana Ross from flirty teen to pop diva.

At the performance I attended, 14-year-old San Antonio resident, Nathaniel Cullors , knocked it out of the park as a young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. Here’s a video of him performing a medley on YouTube via an interview with the Dallas Morning News:

Motown the Musical is now playing at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, Texas as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Broadway Lexus Series and runs through August 16th. Catch it while you can!

For More information:

What: Motown the Musical in Dallas, Texas
When: Through August 16, 2015
Where: AT&T Performing Arts Center/Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
Tickets: Check availability and book online at the AT&T Performing Art Center official website.
Runtime: Approximately 2 hours 45 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission.

NOTE: While tickets were provided for review purposes, the opinions expressed in this article are wholly my own.

Photo credits: All photos provided courtesy of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, and copyright Joan Marcus.

Want to read more?

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For a strange-but-true tale of Texas history, check out: The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber. Happy travels!

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Tui Snider

Tui Snider is an author, speaker, and photographer who specializes in quirky, haunted, and downright bizarre destinations. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction – but then, I moved to Texas!” Snider's writing and photography have been featured in a variety of publications, including Coast to Coast AM, FOX Travel News, LifeHack, Langdon Review, the City of Plano, Wild Woman Waking, Shades of Angels and more. Snider’s award-winning books include Paranormal Texas, The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber, and Unexpected Texas. Snider has several more books in progress, including a Field Guide to Cemetery Symbols and a book about the Great Texas Airship Mystery of 1897. Tui has worn a lot of hats in her life – literally – and is especially fond of berets. She enjoys connecting with writers and readers all over the globe through social media, her newsletter and her website: TuiSnider.com.
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