Motown the Musical Heads for Houston's Hobby Center

In 2013, Jarvis Manning went to New York City to audition for a show armed with more personality than dance moves, he readily admits. But they liked the graduate of Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and he got a call back and a place.

Now, equipped with more dance acumen and an Actors Equity card, he'll be one of the actors on stage in Motown the Musical, headed for the Hobby Center. Berry Gordy's Broadway jukebox musical about his early days with Motown, the record label with some of the biggest stars of the day (Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye) and a sound that in many ways defined the motor city of Detroit, is coming here in a short run, courtesy of Broadway at the Hobby Center.

Tickets are going quickly. As Manning, now a veteran of the national tour puts it: “People like coming; they get to relive a moment of music history.” Like the other performers, Manning takes on several characters in the show, but says his most memorable moment is as the pimp in the second act.

Fellow HSPVA alum Ashley Tamar Davis (who sometimes goes by Tamar) gets to play both Stevie Wonder's mother and Esther Gordy. “It's not hard at all especially when you get the wigs and the costumes.” She pursued a spot in the cast after seeing it performed in 2013.

Davis has had one of those storybook careers out of the gate; she's already performed with Prince and worked with Tyler Perry (Madea's One Big Happy Family) . Of this musical she says: “This is not a Motown review. It's a Broadway show about how Motown was created. You will take away how the music was timeless.”

Both actors talked about how much admiration for the ground-breaking work Gordy did in the area of race relations. “Barry Gordy bridged the gap,” Davis says. Get ready for a whole lot of songs from “ABC” to “Dancing in the Street” to “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” to “Stop in the Name of Love.” You can start humming now.

Performances of Motown are scheduld for July 21-26 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information call 713-315-2525 or visit $30 - $170.
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing