For Berry Gordy, conquering Broadway is the next — and by his own admission, last — major milestone of a magical, musical career.
The 83-year-old Motown Records founder is taking his story and that of his legendary label to the Great White Way.
“Motown: The Musical,” which begins previews Monday at the Lunt- Fontanne Theatre, allows Gordy to relive the ups and downs of a career that launched him into the entertainment stratosphere and he’s confident will allow him to leave the stage on a high note.
“Most likely, it will be my last major endeavor in a creative way,” he said. “Of course, everyone disagrees with me when I say that statement. This is probably the epitome of everything I’ve done — that I’ve wanted to do.”
For those under the impression that Gordy simply signed off on the musical, think again. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer not only sealed up a Broadway slot and agreed to co-produce the show, he also delivered its book and three songs.
“When I came to Broadway, I had no idea I was going to love it as much as I do,” Gordy said. “[People asked], ‘How are you going to Broadway-ize Motown?’ I said, ‘I’m not going to Broadway-ize Motown, I’m going to bring Motown to Broadway.”’
This time, he’s starting with experience. Motown’s big stars during the label’s heyday were, as Gordy puts it, “kids off the street” — singers such as a not-far-out-of-high-school Smokey Robinson, Little Stevie Wonder and a pre-teen Michael Jackson.
On Broadway, the team includes veteran director Charles Randolph-Wright and actors Brandon Victor Dixon (Gordy) and Valisia LeKae (Diana Ross).