“All we need is music, sweet music
There’ll be music everywhere
There’ll be swingin’, swayin’ and records playin’
And dancin’ in the streets”
Before my Aunt Ginger and I walked into the Lunt Fontanne Theater, we were already dancing in the street to keep ourselves from becoming icicles. However, the sheer excitement/energy for our show definitely also helped keep us warm.
I have always been a girl who listens to her parents’ music. Though my parents are slightly too young to have jammed out to Motown when they were teens, throughout the show I realized just how much of the music I already knew from show because of the music they have shared with me. When the show opened with a doo-wop off, I could not have been happier. People even got up and began to dance and sing along. This was a bit strange for me. I initially felt the behavior would be distracting, but it seemed as though the actors were energized by the crowd’s frenzied response to all of our favorite jams being performed.
The most memorable moments for me were when the woman portraying Diana Ross graced the stage. My Aunt Ginger was enamored with how much she resembled Ross. She was floored by the similar cheekbones, tone of voice, arm movement. Though I knew all of these songs so well before I entered the theater, by putting a face to these figures of Motown I felt the songs were illuminated with purpose and identity finally. They were no longer just the popular songs I danced to with my mom.
There was one moment in which Smokey Robinson’s character begins to perform at a concert after gunshots had been fired at the theater. I have always jammed to the song “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” but when Smokey sang the first line “I don’t like you, but I love you” to a white, abrasive police officer – I actually gasped aloud in the theater. That one scene resonated with me so much because it made me hear something I had never heard before.
One slightly funny element to Motown for me was that prior to seeing the show, I had some understanding of the legendary Berry Gordy. My sister and I love the musical Dreamgirls, which is a fictional depiction of Motown and includes a fairly malevolent character that is a thinly veiled representation of Gordy himself (they call him Curtis). Well, I hated Curtis. The Curtis/Gordy that I knew before seeing the show was a bossy and greedy man. At the beginning of the show, I had to actively try to suppress my prejudices against him.
I will never forget holding hands with my Aunt Ginger while singing Diana Ross’ “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.” Hands down one of the simplest, happiest moments of my life.