No Town Like Motown: Navigating the Life, Times and Tunes of Starmaker Berry Gordy

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10 Mar 2013

Berry Gordy
Berry Gordy
Photo by Kal Lee

First-time Broadway director Charles Randolph-Wright is at the helm of one of the more pulse-quickening titles of the season, Motown: The Musical, about record producer Berry Gordy's heyday.

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In terms of backstage politics, Charles Randolph-Wright may have the trickiest job of any director working on Broadway this spring. He is staging Motown: The Musical, a musically overflowing new show about the life and career of recording mogul Berry Gordy.

One of his producers is Berry Gordy as well. Gordy completes his hat trick by having written the libretto for the piece.

"Sometimes I'll forget the person I'm talking to is the same person that is depicted on stage," said Randolph-Wright.

One imagines such waters are difficult to navigate. What if Producer Gordy tells the director not to interfere with Writer Gordy's work? "It's something we talked about from the beginning," said Randolph-Wright. "He's very open as to what the story is."

The show, which is playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, is largely based on Gordy's 1995 memoir "To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown."

"He wrote the book 20 years ago," Randolph-Wright explained. "Now he has an even different perspective on that. You have to ask, 'How do we tell the story of this big character, who is based on this real person, and yet that person is involved with the creation of the show, and is working on it?' It's a challenge, but the way we have worked is a very open process."

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