In the Middle with You: Motown Stars Valisia LeKae and Brandon Victor Dixon

By Jonathan Mandell
02 May 2013

Valisia LeKae
photo by Joan Marcus

It's hard to say that Motown is strictly about the relationship between Gordy and Ross, given that the show features three dozen performers playing some 90 characters singing nearly 60 songs while changing into about 400 costumes. But the connection between the impresario and the singer is a main focus. And LeKae and Dixon have come to recognize their own interactions mirror that of the people they portray.

"We're not in a romantic relationship, but we are certainly very close friends," Dixon says. "The closeness between Berry Gordy and Diana Ross helped make Motown special. Our closeness helps us on stage."

One time, Dixon noticed that LeKae seemed under stress and not taking good care of herself.
"Have you eaten?" he asked her.
"No, I'm not hungry."
He ordered her a healthy meal of mixed vegetables and brown rice.
"I told you I didn't want food."
"I don't care what you want," Dixon replied.
"What's funny is Berry used to do that with Diana," Dixon says. "During the creative process, [she] wouldn't eat."

Dixon also offers LeKae suggestions on how to improve her performance—something that Gordy did with Ross, inciting her initial resistance. "The one thing about Berry that drove Diana nuts is that he is always right," LeKae says.

Brandon Victor Dixon and Valisia LeKae are both Broadway veterans—he is a Tony nominee for The Color Purple and she's been in four previous shows, including The Book of Mormon—and they make it clear that they are acting, not doing impersonations.

Still, the way they inhabit their roles has persuaded more than just members of the audience. "Sometimes Berry forgets she's not Diana Ross," Dixon says.

LeKae nods. "He'll say 'Remember that time when… ?'"