Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Abominables at Children's Theatre Company

The Children's Theatre Company was named #1 Children's Theatre in the nation by TIME magazine. It produces, year after year, some of the highest quality of production for young audiences, in the state and country. Their commitment to inclusion and diversity, educational programs, educating through performance and, for this production particularly, new play development, makes them one of the most ambitious and successful theatres in the Twin Cities. For goodness sake, they are the only theatre for young people to win a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre!

This fall, CTC opens with Minnesota's very first hockey musical, The Abominables. The musical is produced in association with New York City theatre company, The Civilians. It's written and directed by Steve Cosson with choreography by Joe Chvala. The music and lyrics were written by the late Obie winner Michael Friedman, who tragically passed away a few days before its opening. You can read CTC's statement about his passing here.

Photo by Dan Norman
The Abominables musical takes place in Prairie Lakes, Minnesota and is centered around multiple families who are all somehow involved with youth hockey. A new family moves in town who has a young boy, Harry (played by Ryan Colbert), as well...however, he isn't like the others. He is a yeti (not abominable snowman, a yeti as they say). He is tall, strong, roars and is an amazing hockey player. He even has white fur! When Harry makes the "A-team" and Mitch gets booted onto the "B-team" it feels like his whole life is falling apart. Ahh, teenage angst, don't we all remember it too well? However, he has a plan to get back on the "A-team."

The Abominables features an all-star cast from the youngest all the way to the oldest local talent of the Twin Cities. Each cast member perfectly encompasses the culture around a Midwestern family that is completely intertwined with the craziness that is youth sports. Let's start with my favorite, all the mothers. Let me also preface by saying that I never played hockey, however, I did grow up in Andover, Minnesota so I've met a few hockey moms in my day. These women did their research because they perfectly capture the spirit, love and...we'll say strong commitment to their children's teams...was extremely spot on.

Photo by Dan Norman
Autumn Ness plays Mitch's mother, Ellen. Her slight hint of a Minnesota accent, without going full Fargo, was brilliant. Her body language and comedic timing was superb. Elise Benson plays Judy, Harry's mother. Her portrayal of Judy's naive-ness to the basics and culture of youth hockey is like a glimpse into my future if my children decide to play some sort of sport. Stephanie Bertumen manages to portray multiple roles to round out the rest of the different types of hockey moms. Put these three together on stage and they blow the ceiling off. Even if you're a parent and not a sport parent there are still a lot of relate able aspects of the musical. For example, in one scene the parents are freaking out and constantly refreshing the online page where the teams will be posted. While I didn’t play hockey, my mother later admitted to me that she had flash backs of when I would hang around the drama department call board waiting for the cast list to go up. Same anxious feeling just different activity!

Photo by Dan Norman
Let's also talk about the amazing set designed by Andrew Boyce. The entire floor set was extremely lifelike of a hockey rink. The floor literally looked like ice as the actors skated across it. When you look above there is a gorgeous wood finish that gives it a real "up north" feel, which gives it a nostalgic feel for the Minnesotans in the house. Can I let you in on a little secret though? After attending a behind the scenes event of the production a few weeks ago with some other influencers, I was informed that it's not even wood finish! It's Styrofoam with an amazing paint job! While the set included large moving pieces and plenty of flats to transform the rink, including bleachers on the back and sides for parents to sit, they all moved very smoothly. Never once was I feeling that awkward feel that theatre-goers are all too familiar with when we think "Are they done changing the scene? We've been sitting in this black out for awhile." Kudos!

As I mentioned before the actors who played hockey players were literally on roller blades! This was an ambitious move on CTC's part and it paid off. It really elevated the entire performance as actors flew in and off the stage in full hockey gear, chasing an imaginary puck. During our behind the scenes tour a few weeks ago, I learned that only two of the actors knew how to skate and the rest had to learn while in rehearsals! That's pretty impressive for how fast and skilled they were.

Photo by Dan Norman
Another notable feature of this musical were the songs. They were brilliantly written and sung by the cast. The beginning of the musical even features a song about being Minnesota nice with a perky and staccato feel. It had the entire audience laughing because…well it was true! Even if we are sometimes extremely passive-aggressive, we are ultimately very “Minnesota nice.” I am anxiously waiting for CTC to release a recording of this musical! Hopefully they will in the future!

The Abominables is an extremely fun musical for audiences of all ages and interests. I’m not even a hockey fan and I loved it! The cast is an all-star cast and features some very notable and recognizable faces from the Twin Cities Theatre scene.The set is absolutely beautiful and works in every scene. The production has multiple messages for audiences as well including never giving up, trying your best and being yourself. The Abominables runs through October 15 at CTC. Be sure to get your tickets or enter my contest (info below) to win two free tickets to any performance! You can also get tickets here.

Comment on the blog post or Facebook post about who you’d take to see The Abominables, and why, if you won the two tickets! Contest entry ends Friday, Sept. 22 at 12 p.m. (CST) and the winner will be decided via random draw. If you have any questions, please email me at BrettDBurger@gmail.com.
Good luck!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

In the Heights at the Ordway in collaboration with Teatro del Pueblo

When I heard the Ordway was producing their own production of "In the Heights" I was pretty excited. It was a musical I knew maybe a song or two but that was pretty much it. I knew it was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who wrote Hamilton, but I hope you already knew that) and it was rooted in Hispanic stylized music. Other than that, I really didn't know too much about it so I was thrilled to be able to attend.

Even after seeing the show, I still can't quite describe what it was about. Was it a love story? Yes, there was a bit of love. Was it a story about struggling artists? Yeah, it was. Was it simply just about the lives of a group of relatable people who live in Washington Heights? Yes, that's exactly what it was and that is ok. For someone who sees a lot of theatre, sometimes a big huge overcomplicated plot with a hero, villain and a typical story of a boy getting a girl to fall in love with him gets very overdone and very boring...very quickly. That is why I felt very drawn to these characters. They were relatable. Each had their struggle that many of us feel day to day. Whether you're someone struggling in college, trying to find money to pay rent, or just living life and don't know how to overcome typical struggles, everyone can relate to at least one character.

Debra Cardona as Abuela Claudia and
Justin Gregory Lopez as Usnavi
The show opens with the title song "In the Heights" and we are introduced to the entire company. Usnavi, played by Justin Gregory Lopez, narrates the show. He owns a small bodega that many of the characters visit daily which how is how we are introduced to the close-knit neighborhood within the almost 7 and a half minute long song. As the lights turn on and the sun rises on the day we see the full lit set, designed by Anna Louizos. It is extremely charming and has a homey feel to it, almost like Sesame Street. Also, I would have loved to have walked up on set just to admire the sheer amount of detail from Usnavi's bodega to Daniela and Carla's salon.

Emily Madigan as Carla, Lauren Villegas as Daniela,
Aline Mayagoitia as Nina and Val Nuccio as Vanessa 
Speaking of Daniela (played by Lauren Villegas) and Carla (played by Emily Madigan), easily my favorite element of the production. Daniela and Carla work in the salon that Vanessa (played by Val Nuccio) also works in. These two ladies were one of the best dynamic duo's I've seen in a while. Talk about comedic timing because these two ladies had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands the entire night. Their song "No Me Diga," involves the girls talking about how they know pretty much everything that happens in the neighborhood, was my absolute favorite in the entire show.

The voices were unique with each soloist having their own strength. Abuela Claudia (played by Debra Cardona) had a passion in her voice that was like none other. Vanessa had an unbelievable amount of power behind it. Nina often held long gentle notes for multiple measures. While sustaining these note (hello breath support!) her voice was so pure.

Lauren Villegas as Daniela and the cast
While soloists were pretty impressive, I felt some acting was a little static. I appreciated Nina's version of "Breath" due to the high notes she hit, however, I felt it could have gone further. The sheer emotion in that song could have been heightened even more than what she was giving the audience. That is really my only critique.

One of my favorite things, next to "No Me Diga," (yes I loved it that much!), was the choreography. After seeing the Ordway's production of West Side Story, I knew we were in for a treat with In the Heights. Choreographer James A. Rocco is completely in his element and knows exactly what he is doing in the group numbers. Each group number was beautifully constructed and superbly executed by the performers. I had so much fun just watching them, I can't imagine how fun it is dancing it.

In the Heights is the must-see season opener across the entire Twin Cities. The music will have you dancing in your seat and the dancing will make you want to get up and join the performers on stage. It is a stellar production about family, friends, never giving up and never being afraid.

In the Heights has a limited run through Sept. 24. Tickets can be bought here.
*All photos provided by the Ordway and are by Rich Ryan.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Always...Patsy Cline at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage

Are you a fan of country music? Do you like musicals based on real events? What about a show led by two women? Well, have I got the show for you! Lyric Arts, in Anoka Minnesota, opened their 2017-2018 season with a remount of their 2016-2017 sold out production of Always...Patsy Cline by Ted Swindley. That's right! It was so good and there was such a high demand for it during its original run that they brought it back for round two!

Always...Patsy Cline about the life and friendship between Louise Seger (played by Lyric Arts and personal favorite Kate Beahen) the famed country singer Patsy Cline (played by last years superstar Gracie Anderson). This simply charming and beautiful story is told through the eyes of Louise Seger and her unlikely friendship with Patsy. The show itself is told in a very interesting format. Louise often breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience while Patsy performs directly to the audience as if you are the audience of the infamous Grand Ole Opry. It's an interesting model and makes for a fun and unique experience, plus it's a jukebox musical so many people recognize a good amount of the songs.

Kate Beahen as Louise Seeger
The talent of these two actresses is simply divine. Beahen, who I've had the pleasure of seeing perform in multiple productions, is perfect in this role. The character she plays invites us into her life and memories of experiencing and meeting Patsy Cline. Beahen commands the stage with off the cusp conversations with audience members and hilarious imitations of other characters within the show. Beahen can make the entire theatre roar with laughter with nothing but a look, and that's one of my favorite things about her acting. She is one actress that I would go to see in a show any show.

Gracie Anderson, who plays Patsy Cline, is so good it's scary. The musical features 24 songs including "Honkey Tonk Merry Go Round," "I Fall to Pieces," "Back in Babys Arms," "Crazy," and one of my personal favorite "Walkin' After Midnight." Her distinct voice is nostalgic of the real life country singer before her untimely death. Anderson's voice hits those smooth and rich tones that Patsy did with the same emotional pull. Patsy Cline had a contralto voice, the lowest of the female voices and Anderson nails it. While her singing is strong, her acting is another thing that perfectly wraps this show up in a beautiful bow. She embodied Patsy and also made us feel like she was an old friend.

Gracie Anderson as Patsy Cline
Another notable mention is the use of a live band that is incorporated into the show, which I absolutely love. They sit on a raised stage through out the entire show and even are incorporated in a few scenes. The Bodacious Bobcats Band are made up of all characters with the variation of the name "Bob" including Joe Bob (Louis Berg-Arnold), Billy Bob (Herb Reinke), Jay Bob (Daniel Anderson), Jim Bob (Steve Schmidt), Bobby Sue (Samantha Kuhn Staneart; who also designed the costumes), and of course...Bob Bob (Drew Berg).

This show has a particular fondness to me because of my dad. My dad is a huge Patsy Cline fan (and yes he saw it last year and again this year...and he might see it again.) and I remember him humming her hits through out the house all the time. Becuase of him, I grew up listening to the country legend. This musical was nostalgic for me, personally, not because I'm old enough to have listened to Patsy while she was on the radio, but because it reminds me of my dad. (Disclaimer: My dad is still alive.)

Always...Patsy Cline is a fantastic, heartwarming production about two strong women and their beautiful friendship. Whether you're a long time fan or new to Patsy Cline's music, I guarantee you'll love this show. It has a little something for everyone and the two stars are a force on stage together.

Always...Patsy Cline plays at Lyric Arts through October 1. Tickets can be bought here. This show most likely will sell out, so get your tickets quickly!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Artistry

Recently I moved from the north suburbs to the Twin Cities because I work in Bloomington. Since moving I've been seeing a lot more theatre and I recently saw my first production at Artistry. I had always heard that Artistry performed some high-quality theatre so I was excited to experience it for myself. I sadly failed to see Little Shop of Horrors at Artistry so I was determined to see Joseph.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a very well known musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical, mostly sung-through, is based on the "coat of many colors" story of Joseph from the Bible's Book of Genesis. Joseph is one of 12 brothers and sons to Jacob. After receiving a coat of many colors from his father, the rest of the brothers become jealous of Joseph and he is sold into slavery by them. However, through his story, he goes through a story of rags to riches as he rises to become the Egyptian Pharaoh's royal vizier. The story is also about "overcoming odds and fulfilling one's destiny." *Disclaimer for anyone who hasn't seen this production, it is not a super "churchy/religious" vibe to it, so don't let that stop you from seeing it.

Brandon Jackson as the Pharaoh and the Company
Photo Credit: Devon Cox/Artistry
The set was a fairly basic set and the staging did not include too many props with the exception of a few chairs for some dance numbers. There were about 3 panels on each side of the stage with hieroglyphics on each panel. The panels were white so that the lights that shined on them could easily illuminate the entire panel with a variety of colors, similar to Joseph's coat. The center included a long staircase that went up stage. The costumes were not the traditional costumes you'd see at a production of Joseph. They were a mixture of browns, greys, blacks with an almost grunge/post-apocalyptic vibe to it. I was not a huge fan of the costumes that the company were wearing. At times they felt inconsistent however I do appreciate the risk they took in not designing the traditional Joseph style costumes.

The cast in this production is unreal. The ensemble, known as "the Company," is strong in both acting and singing. There are also a lot of notable members of the company who play other characters including Brandon A. Jackson who plays the Pharoah. He had me rolling with laughter and also roaring with applause and his ridiculously high vocals. The entire company owns the stage with their non stop dancing. Michael Matthew Ferrell does a fantastic job of using a variety of levels on the stage mixed with his choreography.

Jennifer Grimm and John Jamison (Narrator and Joseph)
Photo credit: Devon Cox/Artistry
When it came to the leads let's start with Jennifer Grimm, the Narrator. She was absolutely stunning. I was amazed at the unbelievable amount of control she had in her singing. I could have listened to her riff, sing and belt all night. Hey Jennifer! When is your album coming out? Cause I'm first in line for pre-ordering it. John Jamison was Joseph and let me just say...wow. His rendition of "Close Every Door" was hauntingly beautiful. The way it was like no other version I've seen. His falsetto gave me goosebumps because it was so beautiful. Plus huge perks to Artistry for casting an African American actor to play Joseph. Jamison is the type of actor that I would go to a show just to see him if he's performing in it. He commands the stage with his presence and commitment to his character through the entire show.

I'm not the biggest fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber or the show Joseph however this production specifically made me a fan. The casting is spot on and it is not the normal Joseph that people are used to. This production runs through August 27th and tickets can be bought here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Spring Awakening by Park Productions & Performing Institute of Minnesota (PiM)

For being the huge musical theater junkie that I am, I have never seen a production of Spring Awakening. I knew it was a show that was taboo with some people because of the sexual content of the show however that is really all I knew and that Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff were in the original Broadway productions. Because of this, I was extremely excited to see this production because I had nothing to compare it to.

Before I jump into the production, I want to explain what Park Productions and PiM are all about because I think it's pretty amazing what they do. Park Productions was founded to create summer performance opportunities for students at Main Street School of Performing Arts to work alongside emerging artists from around the Twin Cities. Performing Institute of Minnesota (PiM) is a performing arts school by day but will engage in professional productions by night. The community is invited and encouraged to engage in evening dance classes, music lessons, workshops, performances, and gallery presentations. Artistic collaborations like the one I attended are paving the way for the community to engage in the arts (lifted from the program).

Wendla by Molly Peterson
Photos by: Jessic Zerby
Spring Awakening is set in late 19th-century Germany. It is based on Frank Wedekind's groundbreaking and controversial play (once banned in Germany) and is about the story of a sexual awakening, youth revolt, and self-discovery into a new century. Headstrong Melchior and naive Wendla stumble into each others' arms, passionate and curious, while anxious Moritz struggles to live up to society's standards. With only each other for guidance, the group of young men and women travel the fraught and rocky path of adolescence, discovering their bodies, their minds, and themselves along the way.

After comprehending what the show as about and realizing that many of these performers were still in, or recently out of, high school I was fairly impressed. The show deals with some heavy subject matter including sexual content, physical and sexual abuse, and (SPOILER ALERT) suicide. Whether they were young or not each and every actor paid attention to the script and did it justice. While it may seem fun to be able to sing a song that says "fuck" multiple times and pretend to touch one's self on stage, they were honest about it. No actor went over the top to the point where it was goofing off. They played the roles realistically and as a fellow actor I appreciate that.

Melchior played by Tristan Sima and Company
Photos by: Jessica Zerby
Spring Awakening has an interesting genre of music. It is not your typical Broadway music with belts but it isn't a rock pop opera like RENT. It really is in a league of its own with ballads, anthems and even with a bit of folk in it. Everyone had pretty fantastic voices with not only singing but emoting with the music, and again never going over the top with it. During the ensemble numbers I was so pleased to hear the beautiful harmonies of this score. No actor was fighting to be heard. Everyone was singing their part without all singing melody as well. While individually just about every actor had a nice voice, sometimes soloists would slip in the back. At times I wouldn't hear them which caused me to lose some of the meaning of a few songs. I don't know if this was a technical issue with mics or actors not singing out enough but when they did sing out, they sounded great. Tristan Sima, who played Melchior, seemed to have too quiet of a voice at times. It wasn't until the song "The Mirror-Blue Night" when he really started to sing out that I noticed how rich his tone was. He need not be shy when singing cause his voice was beautiful. 

Molly Peterson was a wonderful Wendla. This part was originated on Broadway by Lea Michele and I think Peterson did it justice. She was the perfect amount of naive yet curious. The way she acted when she realized she had these feelings for Melchior was, I'm sure, all too nostalgic for many of us in the audience. You could see the gears turning in her head as she slowly realized things about herself that she didn't know before. Many of us can remember the first time we had a crush on someone. The butterflies the constant questions like "Does he like me back? Is he looking at me? What is he thinking" and Peterson captured those feelings perfectly without even having to say a word at times.

Photos by: Jessica Zerby
A stand out scene for me was when the actresses who played Martha and Ilse (Marley Ritchie and Elizabeth Schuetzle) sang The Dark I Know Well.  I enjoyed this scene as a whole very much despite the horrors of what the song is about. It is about the sexual abuse that one of the girls endures by her father. While the Ritchie and Schuetzle stood with microphones singing the lyrics on heightened platforms on either side of the stage, two soloist danced around the center of the stage. That brings me to the choreography by John Mark. It was something that I think a lot of musical theatre lacks now a days and that is simply modern dance. The song is already one of the most powerful songs in the score but Mark found a way to heighten this scene even more by adding these two skilled dancers with this beautifully choreographed dance.

Mark does a lovely job of incorporating classic synchronized group numbers during songs like "All That's Known" and "Bitch of Living." Even when a song utilized almost all the actors, like "Totally Fucked," there is an air of organized chaos in the choreography which I absolutely loved. When it came to the artistic staff I also want to give a shout out to director Rachel Brady.

Brady takes on quite the challenge with this musical. It is a musical that is not done often, no doubt because of the subject matter. Add on not only professional actors but also high school actors and you run into quite the risk. That being said I think Brady's risk paid off. The trust the entire artistic and technical teams, including the performers, was shown onstage last night for their opening night.

Spring Awakening plays a limited run through July 29th. Tickets can be bought here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Anything Goes at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage

Lyric Arts recently opened their closing production of their 2016-2017 season, Cole Porter's Anything Goes. I've seen multiple productions of Anything Goes including the touring production from Roundabout Theatre Company which can be found here.

Anything Goes is a musical about antics abroad the "S.S. American," a ship on its way to London from New York. Reno Sweeney (Jaclyn Juola) is a swanky nightclub singer who boards the ship where she runs into her friend, and stowaway, Billy Crocker (Ty Hudson). Billy hopes that by stowing away on the ship, he can win over the heiress Hope Harcourt (Elizabeth Cassidy) who is aboard the ship with her fiance Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Kyler Chase). Aboard the ship as well is Public Enemy #13 Moon Face Martin (Robert Zalazar) and Erma (Rachel Hudson).

Ty Hudson as Billy Crocker and
Jaclyn Juola as Reno Sweeney
If you've never been to a Lyric Arts production, let me start by saying how much I love their space. It's an intimate 228 space. Scenic Designer Jadyn Vasquez does something different with the set of this production and that is she alludes to the ship being on stage. Most productions of Anything Goes consists of a giant ship in the back ground while her design shows the railing and steps but it is more abstract in a sense. It's beautifully painted with symmetrical colors and I must say I was absolutely in love with it. A huge shout out to Lauri Kraft for her impeccable choreography as well. As I mentioned, Lyric Arts is an intimate space which means it is a little smaller than a lot of stages however Kraft's choreography never once looks messy or too busy in the space. It is clean, precise and, most importantly, so fun to watch!

The Sailor Quartet with Reno Sweeney
The talent in this show is spectacular in every sense of the word. Ty Hudson as Billy Crocker had me swooning in my seat. His voice was smooth and he added the perfect amount of charm to the role. Bob Zalazar as Moonface Martin? Could we have asked for a better casting? Zalazar is hilarious in every role he's cast in. Jessica Scott who played Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt, Hope's mother, brought brilliant caricature facial expressions to her role that you could see all the way from Main street. While Beth Cassidy, as Hope Harcourt, had a beautiful voice and dancing, I felt that her acting to be a little underwhelming and had a lack of choices being made. There seemed to only be one or two levels she was playing on. Reno Sweeney's Angels (Falan Dahl Nuhring, Tara Schaefle, Sommer Walters, and Hannah Weinberg-Goerger) were all wonderfully casted as well as they had the perfect amount of sex appeal without going over the top. The Sailor Quartet (James Ehlenz, Alex Johnson, Josh Palmquist and Armando Ronconi) were some serious all-stars in this show as well. During scene changes they were often acting little mini scenes to distract the audience from the changing scenery, and it worked. I rarely noticed the scenes changing.

Jaclyn Juola as Reno Sweeney
Now let's talk about the leading lady Reno Sweeney, played by Lyric Arts new comer Jaclyn Juola. I was blown out of the water. Her portrayal of Reno was something I'd never seen before. With classical musicals like this, it becomes increasingly hard for actresses, especially young actresses, to not copy other portrayals of the character. Reno Sweeney has been played by many great actresses like Patti LuPone, Sutton Foster and Rachel York. That is not the case with Juola. She still manages to create and allow Reno to become her own character. Juola plays this role a bit more swanky and charming than I've seen before versus a total sex pot. Her tone in her singing is beautiful and again, not an exact copy of any of the soundtracks. After the show I managed to introduce myself and confessed I'd love to see her in a Sondheim show sometime. To be able to belt after an intense tap scene is a remarkable skill and perfect for many Sondheim shows. She is easily one of the best Reno Sweeney's I've ever seen. She is certainly a name that I will be looking for in future productions around the Twin Cities.

Lyric Arts continues to shine through out each production. For anyone who has seen a show here before they will know that Lyric Arts consistently produces extremely high quality work and casts some of the most talented performers in the Twin Cities. That being said, this is one of the best productions I've seen on the Lyric Arts stage.

Anything Goes plays at Lyric Arts Main Street Stage through August 6th. Tickets can be purchased here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Motown the Musical at Hennepin Theatre Trust

This is one of those productions that is a perfect musical for anyone who loves these tunes but may be new to the world of theater. Sometimes it is more fun to see a musical that you do not have to think too hard about. There is a linear story, with fantastic acting, outstanding singing, and phenomenal dancing and that is what this production is. It tells the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy. Gordy is responsible for helping to launch the careers of some of the biggest names in music including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Lionel Richie, and many more.
I want to start by giving my readers a few quick facts about this musical (generously put together by Hennepin Theatre Trust). Motown was founded in Detroit in 1959 and was originally nicknamed "Hitsville, U.S.A." Later, it opened a Los Angeles office and eventually moved its headquarters there in 1972. Gordy first worked on an assembly line and was fascinated by using this structure but for producing music. His hope was to have a no body off the street walk in and walk out a well-known artist. 
Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy and
Allison Semmes as Diana Ross
Photos by Joan Marcus

The plot centers around a 25-year reunion for Motown, before jumping back in time to explain the history of how it started. It effortlessly incorporates many Motown songs both as the actor singing the song as a concert within the musical and also as the actor singing the song written into the plot (like what we are mostly used to). First of all, there is no weak link in this production. Countless of actors play a large variety of Motown singers (including 450 different costumes appearing on stage) while some played the same for the entire production. Chester Gregory, who played Berry Gordy, had the vocals that made me, quite literally, swoon in my seat. At times it was smooth but powerful and full of emotion. 

Allison Semmes, who played Diana Ross, was the highlight of the production for me. As a huge Diana Ross and the Supremes fan, I was mouthing along to each and every one of their songs. Semmes was an outstanding Diana Ross. She had the voice (both singing and talking) along with her mannerisms. She quite literally was Diana Ross on stage. The entire ensemble had the audience often humming their favorite tunes under their breath. At times they would encourage the audience to clap, sing along or help them sing some of the tunes. 

The Temptations
Photos by Joan Marcus
In the past, I have expressed my distaste for projections. I think they take audience members outside of the magic of theater. I've never been a huge fan of them since I saw my first one in Wizard of Oz. However, the one used in this production I was pleasantly surprised with. The set included a fairly blank stage with minimal furniture and props coming on and off stage. It included a large screen that was able to have projections on it as well as moving pillars. They heightened the performance and story but it was not relied on and that is when I am happy with a production using projections. 

Overall, Motown The Musical is a fun production for everyone. Whether you're familiar with Motown music or not, whether you're an active theater viewer or not, there is something for everyone in this production. There is a reason why each and every one of these actors are on that stage. They are all magnificent and completely dedicated to their craft. Motown The Musical is a mixture of a jukebox musical and also a step back in time. It's a thoroughly delightful production that everyone can enjoy whether you love the soulfulness of Steview Wonder or the harmonies of the Supremes.