Motown the Musical – Bradford Alhambra

SOME of the best songs in pop music history make it hard to go wrong with any show about Motown Records. But this musical about the world’s most famous soul music label is more than just a trawl through a well-stocked jukebox.

It tells the story of how those records came to be made, the singers, musicians and producers who defined a generation with their toe-tapping, heart-pounding hits. And although Motown was a team, a family, this is very much the story of founder and driving force Berry Gordy.

In fast-moving scenes we follow Berry from his childhood and early wheeler-dealing youth to the pressures of big business, facing revolting stars, multi-million-dollar lawsuits and personal burnout. The story is told in broad strokes, some episodes covered fleetingly but others – notably Berry’s romance with his star Diana Ross – give more focus.

And all the time the music, barely a minute passing by without a well-known song filling the auditorium – 62 of them through the evening. Some songs help push the story forward – as with a traditional musical – but most are unashamedly all-singing, all-dancing concert performances.

The cast is excellent, from Edward Baruwa and Karis Anderson as Berry and Diana to the ensemble who play the many stars of the Motown label throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

The sound on a few songs is a bit mushy – particularly the opening numbers – but overall the performances are impeccable, exciting and most importantly packed with soul.

* Until Saturday, April 20. Visit bradford or call 01274 432000 to book tickets.

David Knights