It’s exhilarating. It’s inspiring. It’s what makes you want to stand up and dance at any given moment. It’s Motown, and it’s coming to the Fabulous Fox Theatre Aug 18-23 to blow you away. MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL premiered on Broadway in 2013, and enjoyed a highly successful run and was nominated for four Tony Awards. Now, two years later, MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL is back and ready to charm audiences across the country.
MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL follows the career of Berry Gordy, the creator of the Motown record label, and the events of his life as described in his autobiography, TO BE LOVED: THE MUSIC, THE MAGIC, THE MEMORIES OF MOTOWN. Throughout his illustrious career, Gordy made artists such as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and The Jackson 5 household names. The music of these esteemed performers is the centerpiece of MOTOWN THE MUSICAL―the show has a whopping 66 musical numbers. Each one of these numbers is performed with passion and perfection by the cast, who excel at bringing to life the nostalgia of Motown music in its prime.
One of these extraordinarily talented performers is our Kool Kat of the Week, Galen Williams, Georgia native and alumni of Howard University. As a swing, Galen plays one of the most integral parts in the production; he is the understudy for multiple roles as well as a regular performer. ATLRetro had the chance to get one-on-one with Galen to talk about the show, classic Motown music and everything in between.
ATLRetro: You grew up in East Point, Georgia, which is right outside of Atlanta. Is it nice to be back home for the first stretch of the tour?
Galen Williams: It feels amazing to be home! I’ve been anticipating this stop since this tour began!!! I wish we were here for longer than just a week! MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL follows the story of legendary music producer Berry Gordy and the Motown musicians he propelled to fame. Has the genre he helped create been a significant influence in your life before you joined this show? Absolutely! I grew up very familiar to the Motown sound. Various artists like The Temptations and The Jackson 5 were integral to my development as a singer.
This show is filled to the brim with timeless classics from Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and many more. Which song would you say is your favorite to perform?
I love singing “My Girl” by The Temptations. It’s so cool to see couples of all ages hold each other a little closer while the song is going on. Plus the song sits in a wonderful place that makes my voice sound more amazing than it actually is, but it’s also nerve-racking because it’s one of the most iconic songs in the show! Talk about pressure!
Atlanta is one of the first stops on the national tour of MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL. Where are you most excited to visit on your cross-country journey?
I’m definitely most excited about being at home in Atlanta because I grew up seeing many shows at the Fox Theatre. It will be a full circle moment for me to finally perform on that stage with so many family and friends watching. I also really enjoyed the time we spent in Orlando and Los Angeles. I’m also looking forward to spending time in Toronto for the first time.
Motown music has inspired countless artists to pursue their dreams of fame. Who or what would you say is your inspiration to perform?
My spirituality! I believe that God has blessed me with the ability to perform and express myself at best through performing so I perform to honor my connection with Him and what He has given me. Also I have a very supportive family. Nothing brings me more joy than to see the faces of my loved ones light up when I’m on stage!
If you could go back in time and have a recording session with any Motown artist, who would it be?
This is such a hard question because there are so many artists within the Motown catalog that I would want to have that experience with. However, since I’m being forced to pick, I’d have to say that I would love to sit in on a recording session with Stevie Wonder because he has created some of my favorite songs of all time.
You’ve performed in a number of shows, including PASSING STRANGE, which is the story of a young musician and his adventures. Has your experience in PASSING STRANGE influenced your performance in MOTOWN THE MUSICAL?
Definitely. Maybe not so much as far as the actual story of PASSING STRANGE goes but at the time, PASSING STRANGE was the first show I had done where I was the lead of the show, and it was during that time where I pushed myself to become the hard worker that I am today. It takes a huge time commitment to get really good at anything and ever since that production of PASSING STRANGE that I did at Howard University, it taught me that the best results only come from hard work. So I can definitely say that PASSING STRANGE has huge influences on the performing artist that I am today.
MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL makes it clear that the road to success isn’t always smooth. What’s your funniest audition story throughout your career as an actor?
Actually, I’ve got one even better for you! How about funniest bloopers I’ve experienced on stage? Great. As a swing, I am responsible for knowing eight different guys in the ensemble’s parts. That’s a lot of information, right? One week in particular, I was having a very busy week and had already been on for three different parts that week. One scene in particular came up, and instead of saying the line I was supposed to say, I repeated the line I heard before me and completely blanked on what the actual line was, so I just stopped talking. Let’s just say it was very difficult for not only me, but my cast mates on stage with me, to keep a straight face the rest of the scene. I’ve got a ton of stage blooper stories!
You’ve spent a lot of time rehearsing with your co-stars in preparation for the upcoming tour. Any pre-show rituals or performance superstitions you’d like to share with us?
Before every show, I like to take five or 10 minutes on stage before the show starts to warm up physically and vocally. While I’m warming up, I like to listen to the theatre fill with people from behind the curtain. I can literally feel their excitement from behind the curtain sometimes. Then I join the prayer circle that a few cast members gather for, and it’s show time!
On a final note, the national tour of MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL will be traveling across the country for a full year. Any plans for the future
after the show wraps up? Where should we be looking to see you next?
For the moment, I’m just enjoying my time on the road, seeing the country and doing what I love to do! I definitely see myself on the Broadway stage once this amazing time on the road ends!
All photos are courtesy of Broadway Atlanta and used with permission.