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REVIEW: Tribute joyfully showcased Motown’s music, moves
Monday, 04 September 2017 15:23
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HENDERSONVILLE — The performance of “The Music of Motown Summer Nights” showed that Flat Rock Playhouse has soul — including the iconic spirited call-and-response vocals and silky-smooth group choreography — during an Aug. 12 performance at its downtown Hendersonville venue.

All 250 seats were filled for the show that ran Aug. 3-13. FRP workers noted that all of the performances were sold out except for a couple that were near-sellouts.

The show, comprised of two 40-minute sets, started with Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” and ended with the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” which brought the audience to its feet, begging for an encore.

Shortly thereafter, FRP’s tribute group, which never left the stage, delighted the crowd when it cranked up for its one encore — a rousing rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” immortalized by the late vocal duo, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

Despite another thundering standing ovation, the house lights were turned on and the entertainers bowed and left the stage for the night.

The talented quartet of vocalists included Dustin Braley, Alfred Jackson, Sha’Leah Stubblefield and Martina Sykes.

The band, directed by Wilson J. Moss, who also played keyboard and backup vocals, included Ryan Guerra, guitar and backup vocals; Daniel Iannucci, bass; Andrew Rogelberg, keyboard; and Phil Bronson, drums.

The production manager was Adam Goodrum, the lighting director was C.J. Barnwell and the sound designer was Kurt Conway.

The show was a delight, but it would have been even better if the emcee had shared more about the history of Motown Records and its founder Berry Gordy, and the music’s vitality and historical impact, especially in breaking down barriers between blacks and whites. 

Another aspect of the show that was much-missed by this critic was the absence of horns. You can’t really have classic Motown music without the horns. I wish the FRP had sprung for some folks wailing away on saxophones and trumpets. Still, the crowd did not seem troubled by the missing horns.

Besides providing a terrific show, it was a nice touch by the Playhouse to project classic photos of the Motown greats onto the backdrop behind the stage, while their songs were being performed.

After “Dancing in the Street,” some of the first-set highlight songs include Marvin Gay’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” The Supremes’ “Baby Love,” Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?” Mary Wells’ “My Guy” and The Temptations’ “My Girl.”

The second set opened with the Jackson 5’s “ABC,” with other highlights including The Supremes’ “Stop! in the Name of Love,” Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” Martha & the Vandellas’ “Heat Wave,”  The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” and The Four Tops’ “Reach Out (I’ll Be There).”

A highlight included a woman from the crowd (although it was surely rehearsed) racing out to dance with lead vocalist Jackson to “Only the Lonely.” The woman played the pursuer with some hot, sexy moves, while Jackson, to much comic effect, tried to run the other way.

Perhaps one of the top musical — and visual efforts — of the show occurred during “Reach Out (I’ll Be There),” where all four singers, led by Brakey, were so revved up and “into’” the song, one could visualize them rocketing into outer space.



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