Okay, so there may not be actual dancing in the streets—but there will be plenty of it in the seats, and, of course, on the stage of Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre when the hotly anticipated Motown: The Musical has its world premiere there on April 14. With a score of 60-some-odd (the number was still being whittled down at press time) Motown anthems—including the above-referenced “Dancing in the Street,” recorded by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas; Ashford & Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” recorded initially by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and then by Diana Ross; and Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready,” sung by The Temptations—the exuberant production traces the remarkable story of the iconic record label. Visionary Berry Gordy, who founded the Detroit-based hit machine in the late ’50s with just $800, is one of the show’s producers.
Helping to successfully move the Motown story to the stage are two talented women with ties to Westchester—Rye native Maggie Brohn (Manilow on Broadway), the show’s general manager and a principal in production-management company Bespoke Theatricals, and choreographer Patricia Wilcox (Blues in the Night), a longtime resident of Ardsley.
Featuring a book by Gordy and music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalog, Motown is the story of a sound that shattered barriers and got everyone moving to its same intoxicating beat. It charts Gordy’s fascinating journey from a featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of such luminaries as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Marvin Gaye, while sharing the stories behind their mega-hits. Tony Award nominee Brandon Victor Dixon (The Color Purple) and Valisia LeKae (The Book of Mormon) star as Berry Gordy and Diana Ross, leading an ensemble cast of 40. For more info: motownthemusical.com.
5 Questions for Motown General Manager, Maggie Brohn
You’re a Rye High School grad, class of 1992. Were you active in theater back then? Yes, I spent a lot of time in the school’s theater program, both performing—my favorite role was as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes—and doing a
What’s your first Motown memory? My mother and two friends dancing and lip-syncing to ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’ when I was about five. It was fantastic.
Who were your favorite Motown artists while you were growing up? Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5. I remember dancing around with my friends at slumber parties to songs like ‘ABC.’ It was just amazing music.
Which of the show’s songs resonates with you most strongly? ‘Ball of Confusion’ is such a powerful song. There is still strife all over the world and even in our own country, and when the actors playing The Temptations, with these amazing voices, sing it, I just get caught up in the lyrics and the beat and lose myself in the moment.
What about the show will most surprise audiences? It’s a real nostalgia trip. You’ll know all the songs and it’s going to sound like your memories and bring you back to wherever you were when you first heard them.
4 Questions for Motown Choreographer Patricia Wilcox
You grew up in Illinois. Was Motown big there? Absolutely. Growing up in a typically separated town, I remember Motown being a really uniting force. There was no color attached to it—everybody loved it and still does.
What are some of your earliest Motown memories? Listening to The Supremes’ ‘Stop! In the Name of Love’ over and over again, and the sound of the needle hitting the 45. I also loved ‘My Girl’ by The Temptations and ‘Jimmy Mack’ by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.
What experience working on the show has been most powerful for you? To hear what happened from Berry Gordy himself. He’s the writer and we are hearing the truth from him, and I feel we have a responsibility to carry the message of Motown forward.
So, will the audience be dancing in the seats—and aisles? Most people can’t help but move when they hear a Motown song so, yes, I think there will indeed be dancing in the aisles.