xWork Light Productions and Broadway Across Canada
Motown the Musical

When February 6 - 11, 2018, Tues through Sat evenings at 8pm, Sun evening 7:30pm with Sat and Sun matinees at 2pm Where Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Wow, what a spectacle! A tad too long (almost three hours) but it was worth every minute of it. The opening night audience, especially the seniors, were delighted with this journey to memory lane. There was audience paticipation where at one instance,Trenyce, playing the role of Diana Ross, went down to the audience and asked two people to sing with her.

The show is based on Berry Gordy´s book: To be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown and covers about forty years of the music producer’s life and career. It began as one man's story, the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more.

The audience gave a loud ovation at curtain call to Chase Phillips who played the role of Michael Jackson when he was a child singing with his brothers, The Jackson Five. He sang exactly like Michael Jackson when he was a boy.

Trenyce was also fabulous singing exactly like Diana Ross, and her costumes were exactly the way they were in those days. All those Motown hits brought back memories when I was a teenager: "ABC", "Baby Love", "My Girl", "To Be Loved", and many more.

Even Kenneth Mosley looked very similar to Berry Gordy, and his singing was fanastic, as he reached those high notes. Justin Reynolds (Smokey Robinson) and Marvin Gaye (Matt Manuel) delivered their parts exceedingly well.

Kudos to the cast and crew, especially Director Charles Radolph Wright, Conductor Matthew Croft and Choreographer Brian Harlan Brooks for a job well done. .

© 2018 Ed Farolan


An Interview with Matt Manuel (Marvin Gaye)

Interviewer John Jane

Matt Manuel spoke to me by telephone this week from Palm Springs, California. Straight away he mentioned how excited he was about coming up to Canada and Vancouver in particular where Motown the Musical opens at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on February 6.

The show is based on the life of Berry Gordy Jr. and covers about forty years of the music producer’s life and career. Twenty-five year-old Matt Manuel grew up in Detroit, Michigan not that far from where Hitsville, USA Is located on West Grand Boulevard. He takes on one of the show’s principal roles, that of the legendary Marvin Gaye.

I asked Matt how much of a connection he felt he had with both Berry Gordy and Marvin Gaye. “I absolutely feel a strong connection with Mr. Gordy. Like me, he’s originally from Detroit. He’s now eighty-eight, but is still very much involved with the show. He was actually influential in me getting this role.” “Marvin died before I was born, and while I’ve always liked his music, I didn’t know much about his persona, so I watched his interviews to get a sense of his identity.”

When asked about whether Motown reveals the darker side of Gaye’s life, the artist was pretty emphatic. “The show doesn’t really deal with too many personal issues. Essentially, it focuses on the creative aspects of Motown’s musical legacy.” As a fan of Marvin Gaye’s music myself, I had to ask which song he enjoys performing the most. “Every scene that Marvin is in shows the audience a different Marvin. I’d have to say (I) Heard it through the Grapevine is probably my favourite.”

Before being given the opportunity to join the production of Motown the Musical, Matt was the male vocalist in the Simone Vitale Band. He had to quit the group to tour, but has left his options open to rejoin in the future. He also auditioned for Season XIII of the television talent contest, American Idol. “While I made it to the ‘Hollywood or Home’ round, I just missed the final cut” he admitted.

In addition to singing, Matt is also a reasonably accomplished piano player and guitarist. He has found encouragement and inspiration from his mother and his four brothers and two sisters who all perform at various levels of musicianship.

It may surprise some to know that Matt is a natural athlete, who, despite his height (6’-1”) excelled at gymnastics. Matt prides himself on having a solid work ethic. “Whether it’s learning to read music or extra voice training, I’m prepared to do anything it takes to be successful.”

With that attitude and such obvious self awareness, he’ll likely go far in the entertainment industry.

© 2018 John Jane