Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Danicng in the Streets - Darlington Civic Theatre

Dancing In The Streets
Director/Musical Supervisor: Keith Strachan
Reviewer: Ian Cain

By no stretch of the imagination could I ever be considered an expert on Motown music. Sure, I knew of it – who doesn’t? – and pretty much liked what I’d heard of it. But, to fully appreciate the stage show, ‘Dancing In The Streets’, you really should have a basic understanding of the genre and its lasting legacy...So, here’s the history lesson.

Originally two separate labels, owned by Berry Gordy, Tamla Records and Motown Records became known as Tamla-Motown in 1959. It would go on to be one of the most important and influential record labels of all time – and was the first label ever owned by an African American. From 1961 to 1971, Motown had 110 top ten hits, and artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Four Tops and The Jackson Five were all signed to the label. Motown played a significant role in the racial integration of popular music, breaking down race barriers and producing some of the best loved songs and artists of all time.

‘Dancing In The Streets’ spectacularly celebrates that golden era of Motown as many of those famous acts are recreated on stage.The talented and energetic cast are transformed into stars such as Martha Reeves, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and Lionel Richie with the help of stunningly authentic costumes designed by Tony Priestley and choreography by Carole Todd that pays homage to the dance moves of the day.

Although it is, obviously, the musical performances that dominate the show, a chronological history of Motown is skilfully weaved throughout the piece and delivered by a master of ceremonies. For the most part the performances are top-notch. Songs such as ‘Please Mr Postman’, ‘Heat Wave’, ‘Three Times A Lady’ and ‘My Girl’ are brilliantly delivered and rapturously received by the audience. However, the artist performing as Diana Ross lacked the vocal power to be audible above her backing ‘Supremes’, which I felt was a real shame.

Nevertheless, the show does absolutely ooze the feel-good-factor and it wasn’t long before the majority of the audience were on their feet and dancing in the aisles. In fact, ‘Dancing In The Streets’ is a fun and funky show that you can’t help but enjoy.

Runs until Sat 17 Oct 2009.
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