From “My Girl” to “What’s Going On”, Motown hits come alive on the London stage in a West End musical looking at the life of the record label’s founder Berry Gordy.
“Motown The Musical”, which made its debut on Broadway in 2013 and premiered in the British capital on Tuesday night, features more than 40 singles from the famed Motown catalog.
It traces Gordy’s rise from a young boxing fan and auto worker in Detroit to a celebrated song maker who turned Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and The Jackson 5 into music stars, starting out with an $800 loan from his family.
“We have a love affair with the UK. I mean we’ve had it since 1964 … they [British fans] understand our music, they understand us,” Gordy told Reuters, when asked about Motown’s appeal across the Atlantic.
“UK is fabulous, we have so many great memories here.”
Gordy, 86, was accompanied by Robinson to the London premiere, and both received a standing ovation from the audience at curtain call.
Asked what was the secret behind Motown’s success, Gordy said: “Probably love … and great poetry and music by this guy right here,” pointing to Robinson.
From rhythm and blues, soul music as well as pop later on, the Motown Sound features a string of popular hits made famous by the label’s African-American stars, who also influenced U.S. culture during the civil rights era with their songs.
On Broadway, the musical opened to strong box office sales and got four Tony Award nominations. The London show is taking bookings to February 2017.