FEW musical movements so define their era as the sound of Motown.

The Detroit label founded by Berry Gordy in 1959 gave voice to a generation of soulful voices from the self-styled ‘Motor City’, at a time of great political and social turmoil. It launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more – redefining popular music and changing the pop scene forever.

The story of the label and its stellar artists is the subject of award-winning show Motown the Musical, which has opened for the festive season at the New Theatre Oxford.

The production tells the story of how with just $800 borrowed from his family, Gordy went from a featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul, creating the soundtrack to the ‘60s and ‘70s.

With music and lyrics from the Motown catalogue and book by Gordy himself, Charles Randolph-Wright’s production features a live orchestra playing 50 Motown tracks including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, I’ll Be There, Dancing In The Street, Stop! In The Name Of Love, My Girl, I Heard It through the Grapevine and tells the story behind the classic hits.

It hits town as Motown celebrates its 60th anniversary.

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Creative consultant, Michael Lovesmith said: “The UK has kept Motown alive and is one of the reasons why Motown is still so successful and loved today.

“The vibe here is fantastic, audiences are screaming and cheering and it’s incredible, it’s like being back in one of the shows from the ‘70s. We are so lucky to be able to continue sharing this incredible music today.”

The cast includes West End star Edward Baruwa who plays the leading role of Berry Gordy and Karis Anderson, formerly of top 5 charting pop band Stooshe, as Diana Ross.

Oxford Mail:

Nathan Lewis, who was a finalist in X Factor 2016 with the boyband Five After Midnight makes his stage debut as Smokey Robinson, while Shak Gabbidon-Williams, whose credits include Young Simba in The Lion King, appears as Marvin Gaye.

Director Charles Randolph-Wright says bringing the show to life was a labour of love.

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He says: “It was so important to me because Mr Gordy is one of my idols, so I wanted to create the show that he wanted to see.

“I approached it the way that Berry Gordy approached it – I needed to find artists that would evoke a certain thing. What I never wanted to do was find people who would just impersonate those performers, I wanted them to make me feel the way Diana Ross made me feel, an actress that would actually make me put my hands up and sing ‘Reach Out and Touch’.

“I had a goldmine to work with because Mr Gordy and Michael were there to help, and they knew these people before they were the icons they became.

“I wanted to find people who had what these people did before they became stars. It’s finding that energy, sometimes it’s such raw performers and sometimes it’s people who have been in 10 shows. It’s an instinctive thing – they are Motown!”