Motown the Musical at Bass Concert Hall

Hitsville U.S.A. rolls into Austin’s Bass Concert Hall with the Tony Award nominated Motown the Musical. Based on Motown Founder Barry Gordy’s autobiography, To Be Loved, the musical sensation details the American Dream story behind the record company that shattered racial barriers and changed music forever. Motown the Musical features more than 40 classic hits from such industry legends as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more as Barry Gordy and the gang battle against all odds to create the soundtrack of change in America.

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright and produced by Tony Award winning Kevin McCollum, SONY Music Entertainment Chairman and CEO Doug Morris, Motown founder Berry Gordy, and Lexus Broadway in Austin, Motown the Musical is presented by Texas Performing Arts and will premiere at Bass Hall April 26 – May 1, 2016.

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TMI had the opportunity to speak with Jarran Muse, Motown the Musical’s Marvin Gaye, to hear about that famous Motown Sound he helps to create on stage.

TMI:  How long have you been performing?
JM:  I’ve been performing my whole life. My mom’s side of the family is very musically gifted. So, we would always sing and put on talent shows at our family reunions and get-togethers. But, professionally, I’ve been performing for probably the last ten or twelve years.

TMI:  How did you get the role of Marvin Gaye in Motown the Musical?
JM:  It started with an interview for the first stage reading back in 2011 before it was even called Motown the Musical. I landed a role in the ensemble when we were literally creating the show. Berry Gordy had written the show based on his autobiography “To Be Loved.” So we had a template. But we were putting together a musical. I’d never been a part of a brand new Broadway show before. It was an experience like no other. But, I was originally hired as a swing. I covered Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson and all of the male members of the ensemble. Then about a year into our Broadway run…once the tour was coming out…they offered me the role of Marvin.

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TMI:  Was the preparation much more intensive taking over the role of a single character?
JM:  There was definitely more preparation. Instead of focusing on every single track, I could focus all of my energy on Marvin and really dig in. I read as many of his books as I could. I studied every single YouTube clip, concert and interview that I could find. He passed right before I was born, so I never got to see him live.

TMI:  How hands-on has Motown Founder, Barry Gordy, been in molding the cast?
JM:  Man, he was as hands on as you could get. With the rehearsal process he was there every day. And he was there with us on Broadway every single day. Motown is his baby. He’s not going to let anything happen to Motown. It’s his legacy. He literally built Motown from absolutely nothing…from the ground up.

TMI:  How has he helped you to understand and embody your role of Marvin Gaye?
JM:  Mr. Gordy was the best piece of knowledge for me to have. He and Marvin were brothers-in-law. Marvin’s first wife was Anna Gordy, Berry’s sister. She was the one who introduced the two of them when Marvin was a member of Harvey and the Moonglows. During rehearsal he would literally set me down and say, “this is what happened…” or “this was like this…” Plus, he’s an open book. He’s always encouraging us to ask him questions. He’s a perfectionist that works non-stop. It’s funny to see him have that recording mentality…he really thinks we’re these artists and it’s amazing. He treats us exactly the same as if we were these known artists back in the 60’s.

TMI:  Producer Kevin McCollum has stated that the show has been tweaked and tightened while on tour. Can you describe some of the changes that have been made?
JM:  I don’t ever get to watch the show. So, I don’t really know what it looks like right now. That’s one disadvantage of being in the show. But, I will say the producers have worked on it a lot. Even while we’re touring, they’re still making changes. We’re always rehearsing, changing and perfecting. But, what can I say? Mr. Gordy is a perfectionist and just like him, we all want it to be perfect. But, there’s so much relevant information about Motown…and that’s the problem. Motown the Musical could be a 5 hour show. It’s a never ending quest to make the show more efficient. However, at the same time, you don’t want to withhold information. I wouldn’t want the job of tweaking this show.

TMI:  Where do you go after the show returns to New York and has its run on Broadway?
JM:  Once the show closes in New York our contracts finish. And should Motown go back out on tour that’s another audition by itself. I love Motown. I don’t have any desires to leave. But at the same time I can’t not audition for new things. A lot of people say when you’re an actor, auditioning is the job and when you get the part, that’s the vacation. I guess I’ll have to go back to work.

 

Interview by: Douglas Leach (doug@themusicissuemagazine.com)

 

Lexus Broadway in Austin presented by Texas Performing Arts
Premiere of MOTOWN THE MUSICAL
April 26 – May 1, 2016
Tuesday – Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Bass Concert Hall / 2350 Robert Dedman Drive / Austin, TX
Tickets start at $30. Tickets are available at BroadwayinAustin.com, the Bass Concert Hall box office, all Texas Box Office Outlets, by phone at (512) 477-6060. For group of 15 or more, call (877) 275-3804 or email Austin.groups@broadwayacrossamerica.com

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