I really can’t say enough about “Motown the Musical,” which is still playing at the Academy of Music on Broadway Philadelphia. I was impressed by mostly everything – the energetic performances, the beautiful costumes and stage design, and the fact that it was an approximately two-hour sing-along of classic Motown hits chronicling the journey of founder and business mogul Berry Gordy.
I chatted with the actor portraying Gordy, Chester Gregory, prior to last week’s press screening and more recently spoke with Mr. Jarran Muse – who gives a magnificent performance as the late, legendary singer/songwriter/musician Marvin Gaye. Muse has also performed on Broadway (NYC) in Motown The Musical, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Dreamgirls, and has toured in American Idiot, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, 42nd Street.
How much interaction have you had with Mr. Gordy, or any artist related to Motown, and what was the best piece of advice you were given by them?
“We have had a lot of interaction with Mr. Gordy. He wrote this show and is one of the lead producers. This is his life story, so he holds it very close to his heart. We also have interactions with all of the living Motown legends. They come to see the show whenever we are close to them. They all told us they were so happy that we were keeping their legacy alive.”
You’ve portrayed on Broadway, and now this touring production, one of soul music’s most beloved and iconic artists, the late Marvin Gaye. What has been the most memorable fan reaction you’ve had since you started playing him?
“I love playing Marvin Gaye. One day, a lady was at the stage door while the cast was signing playbills and chatting with her group. She kept saying, ‘And that Marvin! Oh God, he looked just like him and sounded like him too! Oh, I just can’t! Where is Marvin?’ Someone pointed to me, as I signed her book, and said, ‘That’s him right there!’ She squealed so loudly, dropped all of her belongings, gave me the tightest hug and said, ‘Let’s Get It On!’ Definitely the best. (laughs)”
How much research did you do for the role, and what was the most surprising thing you learned about Mr. Gaye while doing so?
“I did a lot of research – reading books, watching videos of performances and interviews – and had a lot of one-on-one time with Mr. Gordy. Prior to that, I didn’t realize that Marvin grew up a preachers kid, and was an extremely shy person.”
You’re a Jersey native and graduate of Philly’s University of the Arts. What are you most looking forward to during this Philly tour stop, and what places will you recommend the cast/crew check out while they are in town?
MMT signature question: If you could portray any artist – past or present – any genre on the big screen, who would it be and why?
“I actually want to portray Marvin Gaye in his life story. Marvin’s role in Motown the Musical is significant, but the world needs to really know how complex his life was. There has never been a Marvin Gaye story, and the time is now!”
And the time is also now for anyone who has yet to see this hit stage play, and for those who need to see it again! “Motown the Musical” runs on Broadway Philadelphia at the Academy of Music through Sunday, June 11. Tickets and info are available at kimmelcenter.org, and follow Jarran Muse for updates at jarranmuse.com.
Until next thought, Thomasena