I have often told people my favourite city in the world is Motown.
I’ve never set foot in Detroit physically, but mentally I’ve been there thousands of times thanks to the wonderful music that came out of the Motor City in the 1960s and 70s, courtesy of Berry Gordy’s record company.
Who doesn’t instantly recognize the legendary guitar intro to The Temptations’ My Girl? How many of us have stretched out our arm during Diana Ross and the Supremes’ Stop! In The Name of Love? How many of us have sang background vocals to Aretha Franklin’s Respect (Sockittomesockittomesockittomesockittome)? And haven’t we all, at least once, tried to dance like Michael Jackson?
All of this was reiterated to me Thursday night at the Powerhouse Theatre, as I had the opportunity to take in preview night of the Vernon Community Music School Glee Club’s production of Glee Club Takes a Musical Journey to Motown.
Director Therese Parent gathered a cast and chorus of 17 and took the audience through a magical musical journey.
Starting from Lindy Blakely and the cast doing The Tempts’ Get Ready to the finale with the group performing Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, and Kool and the Gang’s Celebrate, and the 17 other Motown classics in between, my feet didn’t stop tapping.
Kim Anderson, Michelle Fleck and Anita Baturin did three numbers as The Supremes (including Stop!…). Speaking of legendary intros, the second half of the show kicked off with Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine, with Baturin on lead vocal.
Among the other highlights: Mayah Martselos sounding amazingly like a young Michael Jackson as she led Parent’s Jackson 5 through I Want You Back; Alexander Corzo-Johnstone getting one of the largest rounds of applause, and a resounding YES! from some audience members, as he sang The Contours’ Do You Love Me?
And then there was Darby.
Yes, Vernon’s Darby Mills, she of the Darby Mills Project and former lead singer of the Headpins, belting out Franklin’s Respect. You could have heard Darby at the Towne Theatre. What a rendition. And what an addition to the already impressive lineup.
A couple of other importants things to note from the production. Great costumes. Great sound: a five-piece band creating the magic put out on all those Motown hit records by The Funk Brothers, Motown’s studio musicians. And the choreography. Nothing says Motown more than the dance moves created by artists like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Supremes, The Four Tops. Parent’s cast did a wonderful job.
Kudos to all involved. I can’t imagine it was easy to go up on stage and belt out songs that have endured for 50 years and counting, especially when there were some glitches with the microphones and speakers. It was a fun, 90-minute evening.
As Parent told the audience at the beginning of the show, she loves this music. She grew up with this music. Her parents played this music. She loves the story of Motown.