Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy (center right) and cast of “Motown the Musical”
(photo by Joan Marcus)
On Tuesday, August 1st “Motown The Musical” opens at DPAC with shows running through Sunday August 6th. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, this musical tells the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from a former featherweight boxer drawn to Detroit to work in the auto industry, to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of such icons as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more.
The show features more than 40 classic hits such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and explores how the whole Motown family fought against the odds to create the soundtrack of change in America.
The tour guide on this journey exploring the Motor City of the late 1960s and ’70s, and the show’s principal character, is Berry Gordy (played by Chester Gregory), the founder of Motown Records. I recently had the chance to speak to Gregory by phone about what it is like to play the this icon of Motown.
Chester Gregory (Berry Gordy) & Allison Semmes (Dianna Ross) in “Motown the Musical”
(photo by Joan Marcus)
Chester Gregory has always been a fan of the music of Motown and the artists who got their break and eventually achieved stardom by way of the famous record company. Previous to joining Motown, Gregory gained a lot of attention and praise for his role as Jackie Wilson in “The Jackie Wilson Story”. He also performs as a recording artist by the name of Chess, and has starred in multiple shows on Broadway and in in touring productions such as “Sister Act,” “Hairspray,” “Shrek,” and “Dreamgirls”.
“Having played Jackie Wilson, and now having the opportunity to play Berry Gordy, the founder of the Motown record label is an amazing opportunity,” says Gregory. Chester also once performed for Michael Jackson. “MJ was very influential in the development of my career. He changed the face of pop culture. Now getting the chance to play Gordy, who wrote songs for Jackie Wilson, who in turn influenced MJ, well it sort of feels a little like things coming full circle for me in terms of the characters I play”.
When asked how the show is different from other musicals, Gregory explains it this way – “We’ve all either heard of or been to other shows that have been inspired by Motown-like stories, but this is how it all started. Most importantly this is the story as written by the man himself, Berry Gordy, who put it all together.”
Gregory hopes the show will give audiences an intro a glimpse of the interesting backstories behind their favorite Motown tunes and transport them back in time to moments shaped by the music performed on stage. “What I hope they take away is not only celebrating Motown’s legacy, but learning more about how it all came together and the man who was the visionary behind it all.”
“Motown the Musical” opens at DPAC Tuesday, August 1st with performances through Sunday, August 6th. For tickets visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/motown-2017.