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Berry Gordy Brings His ‘Motown’ to Broadway

Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson hold court on Great White Way

Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson were holding court there on Row L of the Lunt-Fontanne Theater as dozens of iPhones clicked away to record the moment. Not being photographed but standing nearby were Bono, Sting, David Geffen, Jane Fonda, Evander Holyfield, Jesse Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee (in orange pork pie hat and matching sweater) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (in black stocking cap and matching hoodie). And that was just the intermission at the April 14 Broadway opening of the new musical “Motown”!

Already the crowd was feeling celebratory since complimentary Veuve Clicquot had been made available in plastic zippy cups before the curtain even went up.

When that curtain came down three hours later, the man of the hour joined the cast on stage as fellow producer Kevin McCollum announced, “Will the real Berry Gordy please stand up!” Then McCollum quickly added, “Diana Ross is in the house” as she entered stage left. Then came Robinson and Gladys Knight and Mary Wells and Mary Wilson and finally Wonder, who was literally hoisted up by ushers from the audience to the stage as opening nighters went nuts.

That ovation went on and on until McCollum finally shouted out, “I’m clearly the only one worried about overtime!”

But Gordy got the last word, “I just want to thank you all for sharing my dream!”

Motown” is the new Broadway tuner that the Gotham press has virtually ignored (the New York Times) or poo-poohed (the New York Post) as a vanity project. But Gordy and company are licking those wounds all the way to the bank since the musical now enjoys a hefty $16 million-plus advance after selling out at over $1 million a session for the last four weeks (a B.O. feat that is unprecedented for a show opening cold in Gotham sans stars in the cast).

At the Roseland afterparty, helmer Charles Randolph-Wright had to admit he’s been a little surprised by the show’s enormous B.O. prowess. Only Gordy seems to have taken that success totally in stride. “Never underestimate the power of the underestimated,” he told his director.

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