It was just about a year ago when we announced that Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. was developing a Broadway musical based on his life “to set the record straight on the inception of the iconic label.”
The budget he gave at the time was a staggering $100 million!!! I recall my immediate reaction being: WTF?
I’m no theater geek, but I think I can say with some certainty that a $100 million Broadway production is unheard of. Wasn’t the troubled Spiderman musical budgeted at about $65 million, said to be the most expensive Broadway show ever? And this dude was reportedly eyeing a $100 million budget for his autobiographical show?
Fast-forward a year later to today, as THR reveals that the show based on Gordy’s life is indeed still in motion, with new announcements stating that the musical will feature music hits by the likes of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson, among others; also the Musical will open on Broadway in spring 2013 at a Nederlander theater to be announced, produced by Kevin McCollum (producer of such shows as Rent, Avenue Q and In the Heights – all 3 Tony Award-winning musicals by the way, so we could say that Gordy’s work is in good hands here), Sony Music Entertainment chairman and CEO Doug Morris, and of course Gordy himself, with Charles Randolph-Wright (an African American by the way, who has his own extensive background as a writer, director, producer for film, TV and theater) directing.
Gordy will write by the way.
“Broadway is the pinnacle of live theater and provides a challenging and exciting opportunity to tell my story and share the magic of Motown,” said Gordy.
I should mention that, some of you may recall that, 2 summers ago, I posted an entry on award-winning director Bill T. Jones’ intentions to bring Berry Gordy’s life story to the Broadway stage as a musical. This may be the same project, but Jones has moved on to other things (he’s workshopping a musical based on Super Fly currently).
Also worth noting, as a NY Post piece mentions, Gordy is partly responsible for the lack of movement on those high-profile Marvin Gaye films we’ve profiled on this site. Apparently, Gordy has blocked film productions on the life on Marvin Gaye, for fear that he (Gordy) would be depicted negatively.
As we already know, there are/have been a number of planned Marvin Gaye projects over the years, though none of them has seen the light of day. For example, Jesse L. Martin’s frustrations with the delays in getting his version produced, saying that getting a Marvin Gaye film made at this point was “impossible,” though he didn’t give explicit reasons why. I guess we can identify one of those reasons is Gordy’s interference, since he owns the rights to most of Motown’s catalogs, including Marvin Gaye’s music.
“He [Gordy] basically owns the rights to the Marvin Gaye story… And he’s been quietly blocking the scripts and music because he doesn’t want his name dragged through the mud,” a source for the NY Post said.
Interesting… and also interesting times on Broadway in the last couple of years.
But if anything, whether it’s a $100 million production, or $1 million production, this Gordy musical should provide a lot of work for black actors.