Review: Motown the Musical, Edinburgh Playhouse

What do you get when you mix Motown Records’  biggest hits with a cast that’s talented enough to take on the label’s most iconic performers? A jukebox musical that’s worth dancing in the streets for.

Motown the Musical, which runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 8 December, is based on the

memoirs of Berry Gordy and tells the story of how he built the legendary pop empire from the ground up with nothing more than an ambitious vision and a $800 loan from his family. While it’s a fascinating rags-to-riches story, the musical fails to dig deep into Gordy’s personal life in favour of shining the spotlight on more than 60 of the hits he helped create.

Gordy, portrayed by the utterly brilliant Edward Baruwa, comes across as charismatic and likeable throughout while Karis Anderson’s Diana Ross flawlessly tows the line between being America’s sweetheart and a glamorous yet headstrong diva. Her vocal accuracy is astonishing and, if you closed your eyes during her performance of Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand), you’d be forgiven for thinking the honeyed voice echoing through the theatre belonged to Ms Ross herself.

A particular highlight comes when The Jackson 5, led by a young Michael Jackson, break into an energetic and nostalgic performance of ABC/I Want You Back. The joyful rendition left the stiffest audience members tapping their toes and got the more enthusiastic ones up on their feet.

Bringing the music of Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye (to name just a few!) alive is no mean feat and it’s a testament to the talent of the Motown the Musical cast that not one of the numbers comes across as a cheesy tribute.

A suitably wonderful tribute to Motown Records – see it while you can!

Motown the Musical is on at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 8 December. Tickets are available from £15.

Words: Amy Anderson

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