Saturday, 12 January 2019

Motown the Musical - Bristol Hippodrome Review

Still of The Supremes in Motown the Musical, wearing beautiful pink dresses
Last night we attended the press night for Motown the Musical at the Bristol Hippodrome, so that we could tell you all about it. And what a show! If you've been here before, you will have noticed I do enjoy a good musical, but this was probably the most musical musical I've ever seen. The cast was large and there were amazing performances of every Motown singer I could think of. The costumes were stunning and the choreography perfect, but what I was not expecting was the immersive experience that transported the audience back to an emotional and scary time of racial division and tension. 

Tony nominated Motown the Musical received its world premiere in April 2013 in New York and recouped its $18 million investment by the end of 2014. The first US National Tour opened to critical  acclaim in Spring 2014 in Chicago, grossing $20 million dollars during its standing room only sixteen-week run. The London production of Motown the Musical opened on 11 February 2016 to rave reviews. The production continues to play to standing ovations at the Shaftesbury Theatre where it is half way through its third year and is booking until April 2019. The UK and Ireland tour is in Bristol until the 2nd of February, before moving on to Dublin for the next stop. The tour continues its run around the country right up until October. 

A still from the Motown the Musical stage show, featuring most of the cast.

Motown the Musical tells the story of ambitious Detroit factory worker Berry Gordy (Edward Baruwa) who has big dreams and the guts to see them through. With just an $800 loan from his family, he sets out to build a record label that will change the face of music forever. The story is one of grim determination and the will to succeed, underpinned with humour and warmth, as we make our way through the early days of Berry Gordy's career, to the height of the Motown era and beyond. Featuring stunning performances from an incredibly talented cast, Motown's biggest stars came to life before your very eyes. Jade, who attended the performance with me, had this to say: 

"I loved the feel-good musical Motown mostly for its ability to lift the mood of the audience, particularly after retelling some hard-hitting moments from history. I really felt immersed in that time period, especially when they used screens and animations as a modern way to set the scene of the 50s and 60s. I feel very lucky that I got to go and experience the soul of Motown."

A still of Stevie  Wonder at the piano in dreadlocks, from Motown the Musical

As well as being highly entertaining, I really learned a lot from the show. Along with following the path of Berry Gordy's illustrious career, Motown also charts Diana Ross's rise to stardom (played by Karis Anderson) and I learned a lot I didn't know about many other household names too. I really can't say enough about the realism of the performances and the breath taking vocals we experienced, but I have to say the actor who played the young Michael Jackson stole the show for me. Extremely talented at dancing and singing, as well as impersonations, he had everything in one short package, and he was also adorable. What I learned from the show, was that Motown was about so much more than just music. It provided an anthem for a nation divided and was the backdrop to so many aspects of history. The show expertly drops you into an America that is rife with racial tension that you can actually feel and it brings home the emotion and drama of those situations in a way that I've never experienced before. The soundtrack is everything you would expect and more. There are more songs in this show than I thought was possible and each one is delivered with  dedicated authenticity to the original. If you love Motown, you must see this show, if you don't think you love Motown, you will if you see this show. Go for the music, stay for the heart warming story of a man who believed in his dreams. 



  1. A friend of mine went to see this in London and loved it. How fun!

  2. I love Motown music I'm sure I would have been bopping in my seat along to this - sounds fab! Can't beat a bit of Stevie W too :)

  3. I miss theatre so much and absolutely love Motown. This sounds like a perfect night out to me :-0

  4. Ah, this sounds lovely. I've kind of not been that fussed about seeing it as wasn't sure it was my kind of music but you've made it sound brilliant!

  5. Aww I love the theatre and going to see musical, but since having children we don't get to go really. My husband would especially love this show :)

  6. Looks like a lovely musical production. Everyone will definitely enjoy this.

  7. Love a good musical - thanks for the great review, will have to check it out!

  8. This looks amazing, I think it is coming to the Mayflower so will see if I can get tickets

  9. I love a good musical, and this one sounds fab! I'll have to see if it's coming to Nottingham any time soon :)

    Louise x

  10. I really want to see this, I love Motown! I only recently realised that the shows at our local theatres are the West End ones that have gone on tour, I assumed they were local groups putting on performances, how silly am I? It makes going to see them easier but I do like going to the capital. I don't know if it was the same young lad playing Michael Jackson who you saw but one of them got the role from being Michael McIntyre's Unexpected Star of the Show. I saw him performing a couple of routines from the show when they had him back on the review show, he was so good and so confident, it made me want to see it even more.


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