by Michael P Coleman

I was born in Detroit during Motown’s heyday.  It’s music — the Sound of Young America — is in my DNA.  My uncle graduated from high school with Diana Ross, so I grew up hearing the stories AND the music. 

And Wednesday night, it was good to get some of both, and a slice of home, at Sacramento's Community Center Theatre.  

Motown The Musical just barreled into Sacramento for a two-week run, through May 29th.  It’s an adaptation of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s 1993 best-selling autobiography, To Be Loved.   If you’re a fan of the music, it’s a must-see show that seamlessly blends decades of hits with the backdrop of emerging social events, like the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, & Martin Luther King, the desegregation of public facilities, and the Vietnam War. 

It’s the story of the founding of Motown Records, once the most successful black-owned business in the country.  Gordy started the label with $800 borrowed from his family’s credit union.  30 years later, he sold the company for over $60 million,

It’s also the story of the love affair between Gordy and Diana Ross.  Allison Semmes brilliantly portrays Ross from high school ingenue to full-blown diva.  None of the actors seem more in-character than Semmes, who over the course of the show displays a mastery of some of the legend’s more charming mannerisms, while giving audiences a fiery slice of Ross that’s much talked about but rarely seen.  Chester Gregory is a standout as Gordy, and has a show-stopper, “Can I Close The Door On Love”, that’s reminiscent of Jennifer Holiday’s “And I’m Telling You” from Dreamgirls.  Gregory and Semmes are magic together onstage, and give us a sense of the love, intimacy, and respect Gordy and Ross shared as the Motown empire was being built. 

Leon Outlaw, Jr. plays young Berry Gordy, young Stevie Wonder, and baby Michael Jackson, almost stealing the show with a dead on “Who’s Lovin’ You” and in his first scene as an emerging superstar with his brothers, The Jackson 5.   Similarly, Martina Sykes is brilliant in multiple roles, including Mary Wells, Cindy Birdsong of The Supremes, Gordy’s sister Gwen, and one of the Vandellas. 

Nicholas Ryan’s “Smokey Robinson” was eerily on-point.  I had to blink several times to make sure Ryan wasn’t lip-synching during The Miracle’s songs. Jarran Muse nails both 60s and 70s era Marvin Gaye. 

Over 60 of Motown’s hundreds of hits are included in the show.  You’ll have a hard time staying seated. 

But at the end of the day, just as Motown was never about one person or persona, Motown The Musical is the sum of many amazing parts.  There are simply too many of those parts to name.  Go.  Just go. 

Click here to purchase tickets for Motown The Musical.


michael P colemanThis review was written by Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman.  Connect with him at or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP

Plans for a new entertainment and sports complex in Sacramento seem to be moving forward.

Last week, the City of Sacramento reportedly met all the criteria it needed to by the March 1 deadline set by the NBA, according a press release issued by the office of Mayor Kevin Johnson. This “term sheet” provides the framework for how Sacramento will develop a $391 million facility in conjunction with the Sacramento Kings, Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), and the ICON-Taylor Group.

According to the release, the City of Sacramento will contribute $256 million to the project, with an additional $132 million coming from the Sacramento Kings ($73 million) and AEG ($59 million). The final $3 million will be raised via the “Brick by Brick” capital campaign initiative by the Mayor and Council Member Steve Cohn.

Also last week, two new conceptual images for the proposed arena were recently unveiled in another press release issued by the Mayor's Office.

The next big meeting for the arena project will be the next Sacramento Council Meeting on Tuesday, March 6, when the Mayor and City Council will review a detailed proposal to build and finance the new complex, according to the Mayor's Office. The Council's approval is needed to move the project forward, which includes design and planning activities that have to start soon to meet the project's September 2015 target completion date.

For more information on the new arena project, visit

Habitat for Humanity in Sacramento is moving to a new bigger location on February 14 located at 819 North 10th Street. The organization's retail recycling center offers quality new and used construction materials at up to 70 percent off retail prices, including windows, doors, paint, and more.

For more information, click here.