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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MOTOWN MAGIC (article first published : 2006-03-15)

The “Motown Sound” was born in Detroit, Michigan, in the United States, during the 60’s. At the time Detroit (“Motortown”) was recognised as the largest producers of cars in the world. The combined talents of songwriter Berry Gordy Jnr and the composing/producing team of Holland/Dozier/Holland spawned the Motown Record Corporation which grew to become a major independent label.

Appearing on the Motown label, were artists such as Stevie Wonder, Martha and The Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Otis Redding, The Temptations, Percy Sledge, The Four Tops, Diana Ross and The Supremes.

Building on this considerable legacy of contemporary music, director David Gouldie has put together Motown Magic, a stirring and rousing production currently running at the Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest. The line-up includes popular and well-known Nothando Ngubane with Clive Gumede and Pume Zondi (both front line stars from Idols) and O’Ryan Winter of e-T.V’s Backstage.

I have to admit that by interval, I had serious reservations about the show. Apart from Nothando Ngubane who always makes the stage her own and gives a very generous, professional and compelling performance, the singers were not interacting with the audience. They looked nervous and wooden and moves were stilted and forced.

However, when the second half opened it was as if we had made a dramatic quantum leap into the future and had been transported several weeks into the run. Motown Magic was barely recognisable as the same production. The four vocalists gelled as one, interaction between each other as well as the audience was considerably stronger and a sense of confidence was transmitted from the stage which in turn was absorbed by the audience.

Music director Dawn Selby on keyboards heads a strong line-up including veterans Glen Turrell on bass and Mally Sewell on drums with Brad Thompson on guitar and a brass section that featured Kirsty Madgin on sax, Mlugisi Mthembu on trombone and Michael Magner on trumpet (alternating with Russell Scott).

Highlights for me were Heard it through the Grapevine, River Deep Mountain High, Midnight Hour/Mustang Sally and I’m Gonna Make You Love Me. Also expect to hear Stop! In the Name of Love, Dancing in the Street, My Guy, Dock ‘o the Bay, Reach Out-I’ll Be Thee, Where Did Our Love Go, Endless Love and many more.

One of the undisputed highlights of the show was Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amore performed by the considerably talented O’Ryan Winter except that he was seriously hampered by over-amplification of the piano. Clive Gumede has an impressive energy and charm but he becomes stereotyped by his over-repetitive movement style whereas Pume needs to strengthen her movement skills to match the others and refrain from echoing the drummer’s beat.

O’Ryan’s red sequined jacket seems to give him problems and the girls’ large floral accessories would be better placed close to the neck. Other than these minor details, Kevin Ellis has created some elegant and attractive costumes. Tina le Roux’s lighting is hot and metallic, taking advantage of the use of tiny stringed lights.

Generally, the cast needs to relax, trust their director and settle into the production. They are well-matched, each able to contribute their own individual skills to the show. Once that happens, I predict that this has the potential to be one of the most successful shows presented at the Heritage Theatre.

Tickets R150pp Wednesday to Saturdays at 19h00 includes show and two-course meal (R120pp Tuesday evenings and Sunday matinees). Starter options include Roasted Veggie Stack, which I chose and enjoyed, although I would have preferred less capsicum and more sweet potato. Other starters are Japanese Chicken Salad and Chicken Livers Ciabatta. On the main course menu, I opted for the Heritage’s trusted standby Lamb Shank while my other half pronounced the Oven Baked Kingklip pleasant but a bit dry. Other choices are Thai Red Chicken & Crab Curry or the vegetarian dish, Cannelloni. There is a separate a la carte dessert menu which includes Toffee Cheesecake, Vanilla Ice Cream, Bread and Butter pudding, Black Forrest Gateau and Waffles & Syrup ranging from R18.50 to R23.50.

Bookings can be made on 031 765 4197 or at Computicket. – Caroline Smart




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