Broadway Motown musical features civil rights, love story

Thu Feb 7, 2013 4:40pm EST
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By Noreen O'Donnell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. watched with approval on Thursday as the cast of upcoming Broadway show "Motown: The Musical" tore through the storied record label's hits at a 42nd Street rehearsal studio.

The show traces Gordy's rise from a struggling boxer and autoworker to a music mogul who made stars of Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and others.

"So many other people were telling the story in different ways who were never there and never understood it, just for the sake of exploitation," Gordy, 83, a producer of the show, told Reuters.

The media preview featured hits ranging from The Contours' "Do You Love Me" - sung as a segregated audience in Birmingham, Alabama, breaks through a rope to hear the group - to "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas.

Director Charles Randolph-Wright, who grew up in South Carolina in the 1960s, said Motown was in his DNA.

"Motown opened the emotional door to the civil rights movement," he told Reuters. "Motown is the thing that brought people together. We started dancing to the same music and listening to the same music."

Gordy's relationship with Ross - the couple had a daughter together - is shown beginning in Paris, to the hit "My Girl" by The Temptations.

"That's the love story in our show," Randolph-Wright said.   Continued...