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Sequins, crushed velvet, shimmer, and shine! This past Friday, Pure Life Theatre's A Motown Christmas brought exactly the Motown boogie-down that I needed to bring in the festive spirit. With a soundtrack that featured classic hits from artist groups like The Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, and The Supremes, this production gives insight into everything to do with '60s hits. I was taken back to festive celebrations during family gatherings with lots of food and "old skool jams." Once I saw the theater's funky disco ball, it was hard not to get out of my seat and groove with the cast myself.
Programs were provided, but did not list the cast information, so performance credit in this review will be vague, but that's all the more reason for you to experience the energy of the cast yourself!
As I entered the space and took my seat, the minimal set struck me as being that of a festive concert, but you shouldn't let the simplicity of the design fool you. The artists' voices and musicians' talents filled the room more than any wooden platform ever could. With the help of the live band bringing in the traditional concert feeling and the constant costume changes, I was elated at just how smoothly the entire production ran.
First, The Supremes daringly reminded the audience to "Stop in the Name of Love" with a bright, red, blaring background light and red, shimmery, nicely fitting dresses to suit this 1965 classic. The singers came out, took their positions, and before I knew it, I was shaking and shimmying to the beat along with them! It has always amazed me at how the daintiest, most airy voices can carry such power and preeminence. Next, the smooth and charismatic flow of The Temptations' performance was tempting for sure, turning the crowd utterly silent with a star-making high note in "Silent Night." The house went dark, and a full spotlight directly focused on the four men in perfect harmony on stage, delivering the most well-known festive tunes of the '60s . Explaining the importance of the role that spirituality contributes to how we perceive one another and approach our experiences, I was encouraged by the reassuring tone of the hosts as they mentioned that no matter what faith we practice, we are all connected in our hearts.
The show did not stop there. Out came Martha and the Vandellas, who, with no question, stole the show! Total showstoppers; I was in awe. Fierce, passionate, and direct, these ladies came to do one thing and one thing only: shine! And that they did. Adorned in a Spandex-like fabric reminiscent of the color of copper, the ladies were costumed to perfection. Sporting a piece that shone in a way that allowed the energy of their personas to radiate the space, the lead singer was full of sass and pizzazz and performed all she had, and then some!
Starring the younger prodigies of Pure Life Theatre, The Jackson 5 made their debut with the hits "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and "Someday at Christmas." Highly energetic and full of vigor, all they needed was a beat and a spotlight…and of course, it wouldn't be The Jackson 5 without bellbottoms, satin button-ups, and sequin vests. Each member sported a different color, perfectly matching the design and themes of the set. Sometimes flashing lights can be distracting, but in the case of this performance, red, yellow, blue, green, and purple hues flashed on and around the stage's backdrop, feeding the bubbly energy of the performers and giving them just what they needed to take the audience's experience over the top.
The performance of A Motown Christmas is as though these top record-producing artists came together for a festival of compilations and fellowship. I must say, I've never seen something as well orchestrated and festively curated as this. By implementing the use of storytelling and sharing traditional experiences with the audience, this production honors classic artists through yuletide reminiscence. A cast of strong and vocally talented individuals rocked the show and delivered to the highest extent, sure to give just enough to leave you wanting more.
A Motown Christmas moves from its opening night venue in Henderson to perform four more shows at The Cary Arts Center on December 21, 22, 28, and 29. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.