PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Motown: The Starmaker and His Galaxy

By Harry Haun
15 Apr 2013

Bryan Terrell Clark and Saycon Sengbloh
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Mary Wells came into sharp focus through a spunky portrayal from N'Kenge. "Tonight was unreal," she said. "To come on stage and play living legends sitting in the audience watching you—well, it's pretty unbelievable. We got through it by using the energy that was coming from the audience onto the stage.

"Being able to play Mary Wells and what she represents—her legacy, especially since she is no longer with us—is probably the most important thing for me to do every night. I get people all the time who come up to me after the show say they knew her very, very well—someone who was connected to her in some way—you never know who's going to be in the audience, so you always have to do your best."

Michael Arnold, who won the Astaire Award 12 years for his hoofing in 42nd Street, sits this one out as a character actor and runs through an assortment of wigs before he gets down to his shaved pate. "I let all the kids dance now. I get to take a break."

Before the curtain up, Arnold received the Gypsy Robe for the first time. (It goes to the person in the show with the most Broadway shows.) "This show is my lucky 13."

Three of The Commodores were present and very pleased with what they saw—William "Wak" King, J.D. Nicholas and Walter Orange. The latter was super-charged. "New York was on fire!" he exclaimed.

Suzanne de Passe liked the way Andrea Dora presented her: "It's not that she should be me. She should have fun with what she's given to play. It's impossible to tell the whole story in depth, but I think that what Berry accomplished was that he gave us pieces that did absolutely portray the essence of what was going on at the time."

Did Eric LaJuan Summers have fun on opening night? "Are you kidding me? You're putting a kid in a candy store! I was Jackie Wilson. I was Rick James. I was Billy Gordon of The Contours, one of The Jackson Five, a Four Top and Brian Holland!"