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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Dancing in the Streets
Cambridge Theatre Summer 2005-Spring 2006; Aldwych Theatre Spring 2006, Playhouse Theatre Summer 2006-Summer 2007

This is a pointless review, because the people who will go to this show won't read it, and the people who read it won't go to this show. But anyway....

This is a 'Tribute To' show like dozens of others that tour Britain, playing one night stands in local theatres, plotless concerts 'in the style of' ABBA or Elvis or whoever (and, indeed, various versions of this one have been touring for a half-dozen years).

In this case it's the Motown Sound, the several African-American singers and groups who recorded for Detroit-based Motown Records in the 1960s and 1970s. So about a dozen essentially anonymous singers (They're named in the programme but not onstage, and are clearly interchangeable) put on a variety of wigs and costumes to impersonate The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and others, and sing such undoubted pop classics as Baby Love, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, I'll Be There and the like.

Judged strictly as imitations, the results are uneven. Whoever it is who does Diana Ross gets the sound right, as does the Marvin Gaye. The Stevie Wonder makes a valiant effort, The faux-Temptations get the moves right but not the sound, the Smokey Robinson isn't even close.

But the audience doesn't seem to mind, satisfied with just hearing the songs being done live by anybody, and the endlessly repeated onstage calls for us to get up and clap along eventually have their effect.

In some ways the show is more fun to watch than to listen to. The signature Motown performance style had the backup singers in each group doing synchronised arm movements (for the girls) or in-place dancing (the guys), and the show's choreographer has captured that. I saw the show with an 11-year-old who knew and enjoyed some of the songs, but really loved this movement style, which she had never seen before.

Generically, this show is similar to the currently-running Genius of Ray Charles tribute show. If only because some effort is made to recapture the original style and sound, this one is marginally superior. But this is strictly theatre-for-people-who-don't-go-to-the-theatre, and that audience is far better served by plenty of other shows.

 

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Dancing in the Streets - Cambridge 2005