The Magic of Motown Reaches the Hudson Valley

By Journalist Dr. Ms. Jones

POUGHKEEPSIE – “Sing Ree Ree!” That’s what the crowd yelled as the singer playing Aretha Franklin in The Magic of Motown belted out her greatest hits “Respect” and “Natural Woman” on Friday, January 12th at the Bardavon. Even though Franklin wasn’t on the Motown Label, they had to include her!

“She was a neighbor to Smokey Robinson and they were always in the studio together playing the piano and writing songs,” said Martha Brogden the creator of the production who also served as the narrator and gave out facts about each Motown artist before the performances. “When we first started it was a little too much because I was giving a history on the characters… So, I just said, ‘Well then, let’s take it to where they just have a little bit of information’… They still need it… I was a teacher. That’s how I used to teach my kids… I taught dance and theater… Everything is a lesson… A lot of people didn’t know the history of these people.”

“Diana Ross” performed as part of the Magic of Motown presented at The Bardavon.
“Diana Ross” performed as part of the Magic of Motown presented at The Bardavon.

The show consisted of a band and over a dozen singers who took the audience back in time with their hair, clothing, and choreography! Not only was “Aretha Franklin” on the bill, but the crowd also enjoyed performances by “Diana Ross,” “Gladys Knight & The Pips,” “The Marvelettes,” “Marvin Gaye,” “The Four Tops,” “Martha and the Vandellas,” “Smokey Robinson,” “The Temptations,” “The Jackson 5,” and “Stevie Wonder.” Some singers had to do double duty and play more than one character.

“We’re missing two people tonight. My son… plays football and they had national championships. So, he’s in Florida. My granddaughter is usually Diana Ross and she’s not here. So, it was different tonight… But, my extras, they know what they need to do,’’ said Brogden as she explained that most of her cast is her family.

Brogdon started the Motown production almost two years ago. She had gone to a roaring twenties dinner theater show for her daughter’s birthday with a group of 25 people. She was extremely disappointed with the performance.

“Why do you have people walking around reading their lines off of cards and I paid you $65 for a ticket?… I asked at the end of the night, ‘Whose [show] is it?’ And [the lady in charge said], ‘Who wants to know?’ I said, ‘Some of your patrons… because your show is unprofessional.’ She [said], ‘Well, who are you?’ I said, ‘A professional.’ And she said, ‘Okay, Miss Professional. Can you put together a Motown show?’ I said, ‘Give me six weeks. Where [do] you want it?’ And in six weeks we did the Robbins Theater in Warren, Ohio. 1400 seats! Sold it out and we’ve been selling out ever since!”

The Bardavon is located in the heart of downtown Poughkeepsie. Not only do they provide musical productions, but they also feature movies, comedy shows, and culminating performances of students from local school residencies. They also have a history of being the go-to destination for Hudson Valley school field trips by providing affordable tickets to engaging, quality performances through their Field-Trip Fund.

Journalist Ms. Jones

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