Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
The Magic of Motown has come to The Lowry, ready to thrill music lovers with some of their most loved tracks from the past. But unfortunately the only Wonder they are going to get on the night is why this show doesn’t offer more, and the Temptations, more often than not, will be to help in giving this production a new lease of life.
The premise of the performance, which is now in its tenth year, is good. Celebrating the era of classic artists such as The Four Tops, The Supremes and Diana Ross, this show offers an audience a chance to reminiscence and reflect on classics such as Ain’t No Mountain, My Girl and Signed, Sealed, Delivered which are performed on stage in front of a live band. However, the combination of shoddy routines, poor staging and predictable lighting mean audiences are more likely going to leave disappointed than Dancing in the Streets.
The vocals, it cannot be disputed, are strong overall, with renditions of Endless Love and a Jackson 5 medley being some of the saviours of the show. When the boys sing a capella, it does truly showcase their vocal talent and proves that with the right production, they could be truly phenomenal. There are times, nonetheless, when the music is so loud it distorts and becomes uncomfortable listening for the audience.
The main problem though is the overall production quality, the ‘product’ of the show having not been revamped or properly thought through. The choreography is poor throughout, the foundation of many routines being nothing more than just a ‘step dig’, and often it either lacks energy or is too over the top, without any happy medium. It dubs itself as an ‘explosive concert experience’ and yet unlike any concert it doesn’t give its artists chance to develop a relationship with its audience – instead 40 classics are crammed into one evening’s entertainment, giving the performers no time at all to develop a real rapport with their crowd. In fact, given that the strength of the show is the singing, this would work far better as a cabaret dining experience than a full-scale show in a theatre environment, and would give the cast a better forum to share their skills.
The backdrop too is stagnant, the projected stills being a random mix of photographs of Motown artists, theatre curtains, night stars that look like a screensaver, and more. A moving montage of the timeless singers the show is celebrating, for example, would be a better way to utilise the space and make the performance a more nostalgic experience. More professional dancers and stronger routines, too, would help to bring a new energy to the performance.
While Motown fans will certainly take pleasure from the show’s popular playlist, this is one production that certainly cannot be called magic until a few more tricks are thrown into the mix.
Reviewed on 6 February 2017 | Image: Contributed