Theatre Severn gets that Detroit Feeling.

The Magic Of Motown
Theatre Severn
18/04/2013

From the smoking, poverty stricken, racially tense Detroit of the 1950’s and 1960’s Tamla Motown was born. From the pen of Holland Dozier Holland, came the hits that live on in the psyche of the entire Western World.

Suddenly Black music exploded onto the world stage and the message came through clearly. This is black music, this is what we do and we are proud. Suddenly names such as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops, The Supremes became globally heralded, on and on the list went ever expanding as the hits kept on coming.

Adopted by the Cool , the Chic, the Mods and the Kids this was the sound of not only America but the sound of a generation. Given that fact, it is absolutely no surprise that the auditorium of Theatre Severn buzzed with fervent electricity as hit after hit was belted out in The Magic of Motown  show.

Firstly the aesthetic; the set was interesting, comprising a back drop with headlines and names of the time and then above that in huge silver  letters it simply read, “Motown.”  So many of these tribute shows don’t bother with a set at all but would rather rely solely on lights. Not this show, however to take nothing from the lighting guys they did a spectacular job. As did the sound engineers. Nothing was left to chance.

The show was dressed beautifully with sparkles and sequins glistening like myriad stars in some unreachable but highly infective galaxy. Pity that Diana Ross’s beautiful white silk and sequined dress was victim of the quick change faux pas:  the hanging straps hung out proudly from the underarms of the dress and distracted the attention of the girls in the audience and one was able to hear the collective whispered comments in the auditorium about the ill-fated frock.

That apart, the costumes were stunning and given this is a touring show, that is an indication of how hard the backstage team work on their respective jobs.This was clearly a hard working show from any aspect and that gave it the power and reach that it has as a spectacle.

Held together by a backline of Bass and Lead Guitars, Keys and Drums the, all white, musicians were able to play every hit note for perfect note and the front line was alive with such wonderful performances of hit after hit after hit after hit. This was an amazingly talented cast and they made it work.

This wasn’t just a tribute show, sterile and useless. This was an organic and very much alive performance. Right from the symmetrical choreography to the beautifully sang notes this show was alive. The quality of the vocals was so high that within these classic songs the singers put in little musical jokes and really had the audience in the palm of their hands from the very start.

Motown is a reminder of a past that we should all be ashamed of.  The feeling that nothing was ever going to get better, gave birth to this exciting genre; strengthening the argument that out of poverty and adversity beautiful enduring art will arise. From a backdrop of want come such fulfilling sounds.

Black Americans were fighting for the very right to breath. Martin Luther King was assassinated; the world saw the rise of black power, Malcolm X was taking the radical approach and yet against all that hatred, desperation and hunger a sound was born which still has the ability to reach the soul. As did last night’s performance.

This is a four star review.

Owen Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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