Few other shows in Vegas can touch this exhilerating Motown show.
V Theater Group, LLC
Motown revs its engines once again in this loving, exhilerating tribute show
Las Vegas is long on nostalgic tribute revues, but most try to incorporate comedy, sex, or some other “hook” to entice the partying public to drop $100 on a ticket. After all, it’s cheaper and easier to stay at home, crack a bottle of tequila, and listen to the record.
Few of these acts have the courage of “Hitzville – the Show” at Planet Hollywood Resort. “Hitzville” puts all its chips on the timelessness of the music itself. There are no bells, no whistles, no training wheels, no history lessons on the abusiveness of record labels or the black experience. It’s just talented performers dressed for the period, singing and dancing the music the way it is meant to be sung and danced – with all their hearts.
Credit the game cast, the prescient producers, and the geniuses who made the source music in the first place half a century ago. The show crushes. Few other shows in Vegas can touch it.
“Motown” (a portmanteau of “Motor Town”) was the name of a record label founded in 1959 by Berry Gordy, Jr. in Detroit, MI. Headquartered until 1968 at 2648 West Grand Blvd, a house nicknamed “Hitsville USA” and now serving as the Motown Historical Museum, Motown Records churned out priceless track after priceless track, many of them still selling like hotcakes and destined to be sung and danced to in nightclubs and among friends and family until the end of time. Today Motown is remembered not so much as a record label as an ineffable sound (an effortless mix of soul and pop) and a state of mind (being young and in love in the 1960s).
Producers Jin Jin Reeves, Christopher Stephenson, and Executive Producer Bill Shack all love this music. I mean, everyone loves this music, but the producers’ reverence jumps off the stage in exuberant performances that come one after the other, never broken up by comedians, card tricks, or go-go dancers. And frankly, why would you break up a show like this? If five guys dressed as the Temptations have just finished singing “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” and you know for a fact that “My Girl” is coming up next, is there a measurable amount of time you would want to delay that moment?
Most of the performers get several songs in a row in their character. We get “Natural Woman” in the style of Aretha Franklin; “Tracks of My Tears” in the style of Smokey Robinson; “Where did our Love Go” in the style of the Supremes; the Gladys Knight rendition of “Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Did any record label, before or since, ever capture so many legendary female voices? The band is talented and energetic, but a real horn section would have been a welcome improvement over the synthesizers. The singers and dancers clearly love what they do and give the songs their all. It’s refreshing and invigorating, but not at all surprising – these songs have earned it.
The show takes a left turn into the ’80s when the singer dressed as Tina Turner comes out in feathered hair and shoulder pads, singing her biggest but decidedly ’80s hit, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” (released by Capitol Records, not Motown). It doesn’t bring the show down, though. Even if the Tina Turner segment wasn’t a showstopper (and it totally is), can you really break a show this strong with a Tina Turner number? Put down Wikipedia and get ready to clap your hands.
Verdict: “Hitzville – the Show” at Planet Hollywood Resort is well worth the $50 ticket. The auditorium is large and not every seat has great sightlines, so buy early if you can. You’re going to want to see, hear, and sing along to this one.