PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Motown: The Starmaker and His Galaxy

By Harry Haun
15 Apr 2013

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Valisia LeKae
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Motown class reunion that was forming on stage acquired a new cluster of members when the show adjourned to Roseland and they had time and space to talk. Ross, ever the skittish diva, put in a fast token appearance and then vanished, leaving the spotlight to Gordy, who remained a celebrity port of call all evening.

Clearly, lead producer Kevin McCollum was pleased at what he had wrought. "About three years ago, Berry and I had a conversation," he recalled. "He wanted to bring his story to Broadway. I said, 'What story do you want to tell? There's a lot of ways to tell it.' He said, 'The reality is we really were a family. Yes, there was a lot of conflict, but there was also a lot of love, and I want to show the love that was there. Like every family, we fought—but that's also why we make great music together.'"

"I believe that musicals start with an earthy problem from an individual, and then to become a musical it transcends because it's really about trying to find your family. I felt that this Motown story was the perfect structure for a musical. So I said 'Yes.'"

The result, in the view of Smokey Robinson (the real one), looked like that love was here to stay for quite a spell on Broadway. "It was a fantastic show," he said. "I think it's going to be one of those things that go on for years. It really brought tears to my eyes—to remember those times and see what we did back in the '60s."

Charl Brown admitted it was more than a little intimidating to play Robinson when the real one was out front "but wonderful at the same time. Apparently, he liked it. We just wanted to honor these legends who came before. Smokey is one of a kind. I had to research him—his voice and his singing—and it was great to get to do that."

Pressure began for Brandon Victor Dixon the day he agreed to play the Gordy-scripted Gordy. "I like that I get to show people another side of Berry Gordy and really communicate to them the love of Berry and his Motown family," he said.

"The events of his life are not extraordinary things to Berry. They're just the truth, and Berry said, 'We want to tell the truth, man, so go out there and tell the truth.'"