The hits of the Motor City reign Supreme in beautiful downtown Claremont as a dozen Wonder-fully talented young performers bring The Sound Of Motown to Candlelight Pavilion, entertaining audiences of all ages with over 4 dozen hits that are each and every one of them absolutely, positively Tops.

Four Tops Motown Men

Has there ever been a half-century-old song catalog that holds up as well as the the gems penned back in the ‘60s by Hitsville USA composer-lyricists Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Norman Whitfield, The Corporation, and Holland, Dozier, and Holland?

“Baby Love,” “I’ll Be There,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “My Guy,” “My Girl,” “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch),” “I Want You Back,” “The Tears Of A Clown,” and “Superstition,” are just ten of the fifty or so Motown hits performed at Candlelight by an awesomely talented ensemble and a sensational live 10-piece onstage band. Music doesn’t get any better, or remain any fresher than this.

Motown With John LaLonde directing and Paul David Bryant choreographing those distinctively Motown dance moves, twelve up-and-coming Southern Californians rock the Pavilion for over two hours of music sure to get you Dancing In Your Seats, and maybe even On Your Feet should you feel the Temptation.

From its opening number, an all-female a cappella rendition of “Dancing in The Street” that starts off in the audience before moving onstage, to the bang-up grand finale of “Sir Duke” aka “You Can Feel It All Over” which brings the entire audience to their feet as all twelve cast members join voices in Wonder-ful harmonies, The Sound Of Motown makes for the perfect summer revue (and the ideal Candlelight bridge between the just-closed The King And I and the upcoming Sweeney Todd).

My Guy Allisonne E. Crawford, Jo-Rhea Dalcour, Rashonda Johnson, Jazz Madison, Jessica Mason, and Valentina Merchant bring to life one glamorous Motown girl group after another, from Martha And The Vandellas to The Marvelettes to The Supremes, along with female artists like Mary Wells and Patti LaBelle, the latter of whom didn’t actually record for Motown, but who’s going to complain when Johnson rocks the house with “Lady Marmelade”?

Crawford, Madison, and Merchant each gets to solo her own Martha And The Vandellas hit along with one by The Supremes, and Dalcour, Johnson, and Mason each gets her Supremes solo as well, which means smashes like “Heatwave,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” You Keep Me Hanging On,” and “Nowhere To Run,” to name just four. Johnson stands in for Gladys Knight and Mason for Mary Wells in “Neither One Of Us,” “My Guy,” and “Two Lovers,” while Merchant gets to be Marvelette Gladys Horton, who introduced the world to “Please Mr. Postman.”

Temptations And then there are the men—Eric Bailey, Bryant, Desmond Clark, Lawrence Cummings, and Gary Lewis, who give us the Greatest Hits of The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and more. Bailey’s solos include “My Girl” and “Superstition,”; Bryant gives us “This Old Heart Of Mine” and “For Once In My Life”; Clark gets “Tears Of A Clown” and “Can’t Help Myself”; Cummings brings down the house with “Get Ready” and “Ooh, Baby Baby”; and Lewis scores with “I Second That Emotion” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” … all these and many, many more.

CJ Motown Last—and youngest and tiniest—but definitely not least of the Dazzling Dozen is pint-sized seven-year-old song-and-dance dynamo CJ Wright, who opens Act Two accompanying himself on keyboard to “I’ll Be There” before being joined by Jacksons stand-ins Bailey, Clark, Cummings, and Lewis for a medley of Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson classics—“I Want You Back,” ABC,” and “Rockin Robin.” (Wright returns later to solo Michael’s Academy Award-nominated “Ben.”)

CJ and Ladies of Women

Musical director Andrew Reyes vocal solos a simply gorgeous “What’s Going On,” in addition to conducting and playing keyboards with onstage musicians Mark Bollinger (guitar), Sal Flores (percussion), Nathaniel Jorge (baritone sax), Julius Lopez (trombone), Gino Munoz (trumpet), Brandon Shaw (bass), Dan Silva (tenor sax), Bob Slack (trumpet), and Alan Waddington (drums).

Lawrence and Ladies of Motown Kudos to scenic designer Orlando Montes for his Apollo-ready set and Steve Giltner of SteveGDesign for his Vegas-ready lighting.

You don’t have to have grown up listening to Motown on the radio to have the best time ever at The Sound Of Motown. Timeless in a way that half-century old songs rarely are, The Sound Of Motown’s four-dozen-plus hits make the weeks between now and September 8 the hottest of the year, and by “hot” I mean sizzling Motown HOT.

Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.

–Steven Stanley
August 10, 2013

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