'Motown the Musical' says to Broadway: 'I'll Be There' - again; show plans 2016 return

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NEW YORK — We've heard it through the grapevine — "Motown the Musical" is coming back to Broadway.

Motown Records founder Berry Gordy and producer Kevin McCollum said Monday that the musical that tells the story of how the record label rose and fell and then rose again will return to New York starting July 2016 for an 18-week stand.

McCollum said the show has gotten stronger since opening cold on Broadway two years ago and Gordy has been sharpening the story. "It's a much crisper and shorter and has a real pop to it," he said.

The show is currently on tour and will play the holidays in Washington, D.C. Early next year, it hits Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, Ohio and Wisconsin, among other places. It also plays the Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End in February.

McCollum, whose shows currently include "Something Rotten!" and "Hand to God," said the "Motown" creators have tinkered with the musical since it left Broadway, something not possible in New York. "Mr. Gordy doesn't quit and neither do I," he said.

For his part, Gordy said: "We tweaked a lot of stuff and the road show got tighter and tighter. And now it's coming back to Broadway and we're very happy about that because that's where it started. It was raw and they accepted us and loved us, and so we're so excited to get back to where it started when it was rough."

The show first began performances in March 2013 at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre and closed this January after over 700 performances, routinely breaking $1 million a week at the box office. For this upcoming stint, the show will be at the Nederlander Theatre, a smaller venue but one McCollum thinks is a better fit.

The story begins and ends in 1983 — Motown's 25th anniversary — and travels back in time to show how Gordy helped start the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more.

"Ultimately, 'Motown' is the story about the American dream. One man, who against all odds, built a company that changed music as much as Steve Jobs changed music," McCollum said.

The show, directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, has one of the most amazing scores, including "War," ''Reach Out and Touch," ''What's Going On" ''Sign, Sealed, Delivered," ''My Girl" and "Dancing in the Streets." The show earned four Tony Award nominations.

"This music connects so many people — white, black, young, old, rich, poor. It's very universal and that's why I think coming back is the right thing," McCollum said. "This is the music that defined our country and art and civil rights. It continues to be resonant in today's very troubling, tumultuous times."

For Gordy, 85, who is a co-producer of the show with McCollum and Doug Morris, said "Motown the Musical" is no mere musical for him. It's his life up there, after all.

"So many people tell me that they relive so much of their life through the songs and the stories. I usually let them know I'm reliving it all the time and it's wonderful and beautiful — the good times and the bad times," he said. "I'm so glad that the love lasted between us all so strongly."

Online: http://www.MotownTheMusical.com

Follow Mark Kennedy at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mark-kennedy

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