Review: The Magic Of Motown – great singing, shame about the impressions

The Magic Of Motown, Grand Opera House, Friday, June 21
The Magic Of Motown, Grand Opera House, Friday, June 21

Review: The Magic Of Motown
Venue: Grand Opera House, Friday, June 21

I was looking forward to The Magic of Motown having seen other shows of this type such as Smokey Joes Café and Jersey Boys in the West End of London.

Tonight’s show started with a voiceover introducing the cast. Just as I was settling into the first song I was hit on the head by a handbag belonging to a woman in the row behind who was arriving late to her seat. A lot of people were having to stand up to allow latecomers to access their seats; perhaps the Opera House should have a policy of only allowing latecomers in between songs.

The audience, whose average age must have been between 45 and 65, were clearly up for a good night out and from the moment the band started playing, people clapped along and cheered.

The Magic of Motown cast consists of four backing musicians, all dressed in Blues Brothers-type suits (with a change of shirt for the second half). The quality of the musicianship was good but not exceptional; in fact I felt the musicianship of local band The Supermodels could give these guys a run for their money.

The sound was OK apart from the keyboard player’s string and brass sounds which sounded very 1980s. There is no reason in this day and age of high quality orchestra and brass samples that inferior keyboard sounds should be tolerated.

The show was fronted by seven singers, three women and four men, who all had incredible voices and the moves to match. There was a costume change every two or three songs. Their laundry bill must be massive because the whole cast was working incredibly hard and sweat was pouring from all of the performers.

Yet although everyone seemed to be having a good time I felt the show lacked soul.

The show was last in York in October 2012 when there was 16 members of the cast (an extra male and female vocalist and three extra musicians) and with the cast now down to 11 corners have been cut and it shows.

The Magic of Motownis still directed and led by singer Andre Lajeune. It is obvious that this is Andre’s show; other singers have their moment in the spotlight but Andre wants everyone to know that he is the boss.

André had a great voice, but he sings some songs that other members of the cast could clearly sing better. The first low point of the evening is when André does the Diana Ross & Lionel Richie duet Endless Love em> which he plays for laughs, and his performance is cringingly bad. The poor girl singing Diana Ross’s part does her best to salvage the situation but all hope is lost.

The next low point is when Andre is led on stage by one of the girls pretending to be a blind Stevie Wonder and he even mimics Stevie’s head movement which was in such bad taste I felt like leaving. This is such a shame because vocally André sings the Stevie Wonder songs brilliantly. There is a little problem with the bands timing in Sir Duke and the vocals overpower the music on occasion but these are small matters compared to watching a pretend blind man sing.

By the time we got to the Jackson Five the show was becoming pantomime with the four guys and one of the girls wearing big afro wigs (the girl was singing Michael Jackson’s parts as a soprano – which didn’t work). It was enough to make poor Michael J turn in his grave. It comes across as less tribute and more a weird parody. If I could have left I would have but I was blocked in by all the middle-aged women cavorting in the aisles.

It was clear from the standing ovation at the end of the show that the majority of the audience loved it. Although I wasn’t alone. There was a gentleman sat in front of me who wasn’t leaping about like a thing possessed. The female friend who came with me enjoyed the show but agreed about the poor taste Stevie Wonder and Jackson Five impressions and said she wouldn’t recommend it.

And neither would I In fact go and see the real legend Geno Washington who is still touring. Granted it’s not a Motown show but Geno covers a lot of the same songs in his set and you’ll still have change from 20 quid.

30 thoughts on “Review: The Magic Of Motown – great singing, shame about the impressions

  1. Saw the show in Blackburn on 9th March 2019, my 63rd birthday. I bought my first Motown 45 at age 8 (My Guy) so know the stuff quite well. Didn’t expect a replication of the quality of the original stuff but this fell well short. The impersonation of Stevie Wonder, in dark glasses and bandanna, being led on stage holding onto a fellow singers shoulder was tasteless. And the fact his jacket was buttoned up wrongly just added to the incredulity. Won’t mention the female Michael Jackson!

  2. My wife & I went & saw the show of magic of Motown in Bourmouth Pavillion…what magic , it was dreadful. The singing was rubbish, the costumes cheap & tacky, backing musicians were half asleep & not bothered, the dancing unrehearsed , not a bit like the TRUE MOTOWN PERFORMERS OF YESTERDAY YEAR. Who had soul, rhythm, feelings, & polished acts . We walked out at half time thank god.
    My advice to the people involved in this show….give up while you are ahead you are taking the piss.

  3. Magic of Motown has lost its magic.

    We have seen this show twice previously in the last 5 years or so and on both occasions it was a slick, classy, professional piece of work
    by a talented band with great singers paying faithful and respectful tribute to bands like The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops, Diana Ross and the Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas and the like. Their voices were brilliant, routines were polished, costumes a pleasure to behold and the whole show made for a great evening.

    This cast, though they may be perfectly OK singing whatever they used to sing in their previous lives, simply do not have the power, richness and purity of voice of the Motown stars. They use vocal tricks to cover up notes that can’t be sustained, little modern “flourishes” that are out of place for this type of music. Sometimes notes were flat and both male and singers screeched the high notes. As others mention, the tributes to Stevie Wonder were in bad taste and the Jackson 5, in their bad wigs and fancy dress shop costumes were fairly embarrassing. Though the dance moves of the singers were good enough, this wasn’t enough to rescue the
    poor renditions of the songs and the whole thing was a rather shoddy, brassy entertainment (the girl’s cheap dresses barely covered their modesty lengthwise – I don’t remember Motown stars looking like that) not worth the money we paid

    I don’t know what has happened, maybe the former show stars have moved on to other things – to be replaced by this low-budget version – a shadow of its former self.

  4. Truly dreadful.
    Experienced the Magic of Motown at the Theatre Royal in Windsor on Thursday 16 October 2018. But they forgot the magic…
    The four-piece band were mediocre and totally disinterested.. there was no horn section, and not even any synthesised horn from the keyboard player – even on How Sweet It is).
    Singing was often tuneless.
    And the choreography looked as if they had thought it up and practiced in someone’s bedroom….seriously
    We left after 25mins of a 2h show.
    Truly dreadful.

  5. The magic of motown, no magic at all. Attended the concert at Burghley, sound quality was dreadful, screen that was put up had a large awning in front of it so could only see about a third of the screen. Lots of the songs were not Motown, singing was out of key. We had to leave half way through as couldn’t stand it any longer, many others left early too. Save your money and but some cds you will have more fun

  6. I have virtually stopped going to theatre and films because I really hate the swearing that gets included on stage. Does this show have any?

  7. I saw this show last night at the carlisle sands centre it was energy from begining to end and I loved it …I’ve been all over the world and seen so many real artist and believe me they were not all perfect forgetting their words playing bum notes couldn’t hit those high notes any more ….but these guys were brilliant at getting the audience going and from what I saw everyone got what they came for a brilliant night …. why oh why do you get the moaners nd groaners like the first comments they must have boring lives if they’ve got to look at fault in everything and think that all those who enjoyed the night were dumbwhits that no no better …..go pay hundreds of pounds to see the real thing if any of them are still alive nd see if they are as good at singing and dancing as they used to be at £25 a ticket I got more than my money’s worth and afterwards in the foyer they were brilliantly obliging and friendly I loved them and will certainly go see them again …well done to them for bringing so many happy memories back to me and my husband

  8. I saw this show in Wimbledon theatre and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes there are parts that are a little cheesy but it is all done in good humour. Some people are always offended on other peoples behalf. Its so boring! It is a great night out for all ages. Just remember that they are not the original artist but still do a great job. Relax and enjoy

  9. I see that according o the calendar of events MoTown are appearing in two places at the same time, 10 June, Trowbridge and Milton Keynes.
    How many different Magic groups are on tour at any one time; are the bands and singers recruited locally for each area?

  10. Saw the show last night for the first time and had a reakky good time, songs were great and the whole show looked really good.

  11. Great act. Funny, fun, great singalong to old favourites and at my show at least, none of these pedants

  12. Went to see the show at the Royal Spa centre Last night it was marvellous, music marvellous and the dancing absolutely first class. We are already booking back up to see it again. What do some people want, I am amazed by some comments – keep up the good work – very slick, first class performance.

  13. My conclusion in life is that 99% of moaners have too much time on their hands, for those of us well and truly in the rat race of todays world, this is a fantastic get away from it all for 3 hours show. Its fairly obvious that this review might as well have been written before the show started as the reviewers mind was already made up. Most show goers can get a good reflection of a show before its started by how many empty seats there are, I haven’t seen many at either King’s Lynn or the bigger venue of Ipswich Regent ! As others have said before, don’t be put off by this review one can only presume he was upset at having to head out and miss a highly stimulating programme like The X Factor.

  14. Saw them last night in Newbury really don’t understand all the negative reviews , great fun night out , don’t be put off

  15. My Mother is a great Motown Lover and she booked me to these twice as she went along with me as she was Teaching me about Motown as I was born in the early 70’s. She spoiled me twice and like Mum’s do. But The Southsea show was great but the Door Man at to remove some people that got a bit drunk as they were coursing a few hiccups and then it after it was smashing.

  16. Hi I am From Havant NR Pompey Hants.
    I have seen the Magic Of Motown Concert twice as I seen them in
    Southampton and Southsea. I enjoyed the show A lot.

  17. Saw Magic of Motown last night at Aberystwyth. The sound quality was terrible, and some of the singing was not up to much either. Most of the audience seem to enjoy it but they obviously don’t remember Motown at it’s best. Lots of non Motown songs and some of the arrangements were not great. Disappointed !!!!

    1. Hi
      Well I have seen Magic Of Motown twice and the first was at southampton and the sound was great there, but there was a minor hiccup with sound at the Southsea show as the King’s Theater, But engineers sorted it as the arrangement had minor issue and after that it was fine and it went well…..
      the Trouble was that the King’s Theater is a very old Building so it took time for the sound arrangements to get adjusted for the premises.

  18. Saw Magic of Motown on 21st Sept at Cromer Pier Theatre,nearly a full house.Enjoyed the show it took me back to my teens,bit surprised with the number of songs which weren’t Motown,however that did not spoil the show.What did spoil the show was a drunken twat dressed as an army sergeant who had obviously been to the Sheringham 1940’s day.On several occasions I thought he was going to get on stage with the performers he really was annoying,Im’ sure he ruined the night for many in the audience as well as those on stage.Security spoke with him and he went only however to return with yet another glass of beer,I can’t believe the bar served him.Eventualy security did remove him but by then the damage was done.Come on pier security you could and should of ejected him much sooner you let the audience down,I hope you learn from this !!!Steve & Karen Moss,Norwich.

  19. I’m appalled at some of the negative reviews. The original stars are mostly dead and those that aren’t and are still touring cannot sing. (poor Martha Reeves – who I loved back in the 60s). So what are you going to do? See some white singers trying to sing like Motown stars? No – the Magic of Motown singers are the next best thing to the originals.

    Yes – the keyboard samples are the least good aspect, which is a shame because the keyboard player is brilliant.

  20. just got back from the magic of motown ATWOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE…..great show but not one smokey robinson song the co.founder disappointed

  21. You need to grow up lad you sound a bit precious wanting to leave during the Stevie Wonder segment, mountain out of a molehill springs to mind. There’s a race track in York trot on down there if you must straddle a high horse.

    The only notable assertion in this desperate waffle is the vast majority enjoyed themselves and when I say vast majority I mean 99.9%. This piece really is filling space with self indulgent frippery when the real story was a truly wonderful show endorsed by one and all.

    To others reading the critique take no notice of his self indulgent tripe this is a first class show I would highly recommend.

  22. I have to agree with Ian regarding the Magic of Motown.I am a fan of the Detroit sound of Motown,and was lucky enough to see The Four Tops and Jnr Walker when they toured the UK many years ago.Anyway my partner and I were looking forward to see the show at Harrogate Theatre Royal.Unfortunately from the opening chords of Love Train,surely the Ojays,are from Philly and not on the Motown label the show just became more and more cringeworthy.The sound system was rubbish ,thank god you couldn’t hear the backing musicians…?very working men’s club on a Saturday night.The singers were ok but Andre. was beginning to get on my nerves.The crowd seemed to love it,mostly middle aged ladies who obviously can’t remember how good the originals sound.Needless to say we couldn’t stand anymore and left in the internal.

    1. We saw the show in Canterbury. Should be billed as singalong with Motown. It was cringy. Glad some people enjoyed it but many, like us, left before the end. I too thought the Stevie Wonder impression was in poor taste.

  23. I must disagree with the above comments..
    I have seen the show 3 times and it’s keeps getting better.
    Yes the band have changed but they are now much better and more lively than the older guys who used to play the show, sometimes there is a brass section but it sounds great without.
    The singers always put on a good show but do go out of key occasionally and look a bit confused.

    You can pick holes with any show when comparing them to Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross, to see them in concert you will have to pay over £100 per ticket!!

    Overal it’s a fun night out with great music..

    1. I agree. Having seen the show twice before, the second one was without Andre Lajeune and it was far better that the first. The guy is obviously getting on a bit!!. I also agree that a lot more actual Motown songs could have been included. I will probably see them again as its a good fun night for £26

  24. A very accurate review.
    I saw them on Thursday provided with free tickets as a thank-you for creating the weekly podcast for the Soutime show on Tameside radio – had no plans to go otherwise.

    However, I suspect unlike much of the audience, I know my Motown, having grown up with the music since the days of My Guy and the Beatles covering Please Mr Postman and You Really Got A Hold On Me, nearly 50 years ago.

    About a third of the songs were not even Motown (e.g. Love Train, Midnight Train To Georgia, Under The Boardwalk (which was probably vocally the most enjoyable of the night), Loco In Acapulco, Why Do Fools Fall In Love and no doubt others I’ve forgot. I did enjoy them using Gladys’ version of Grapevine (the first version to chart). I agree that the main male lead singer was very irritating. I also suspect the backing vocals were pre-recorded – their mic control was so loose that the sound would not have come across as it did.

    The show seemed to please the vast majority of the audience – maybe they have never seen the Funk Brothers (their first UK tour following the film release was exceptional) or Edwin Starr or the Four Tops or The Tempts, etc live because they are the real deal but they are gone (or at least the groups in their prime) so this is what we are left with. [Note I have seen the Tops post Levi and to be honest they were still superb but people like Ronnie McNeir are Motown stars in their own right].

    Sorry for rambling on, but glad I have found an accurate review – suspect you can only post on Ticketmaster (which has so many dodgy reviews) if you bought tickets through them.

    1. I was relieved to see thirst reviews – I saw the show last night and just couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, it just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t find it professional and everything which has been mentioned is what it was – the bad Afro wigs, the poor taste in mimicking Stevie Wonder and the joking rendition of Endless Love. My friends all loved the show but you have put it in a nutshell for me.

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