Thursday, 15 May 2014

Let’s Get It On: The Life & Music of Marvin Gaye, May 15, 2014 ****

Written by John H. Livings; produced by Room 8
Atheneaum Theatre, May 15 to 25, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review published in Herald Sun online on May 20 and in print. KH

Let’s face it, Bert LaBonté is such a gifted performer I’d happily watch him doing nursery rhymes, so when he’s singing Marvin Gaye’s repertoire I’d crawl over broken glass for tickets – and pay for them!
(Yes, I know it is exaggeration! Maybe run over hot coals?)

In this two-hour “narrative concert”, Let’s Get It On: The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye, LaBonté commands and enthralls the audience with his thrilling voice, generous performance and easy charm.

Supported by the tight, accomplished ensemble, The Funk City Band (led by John McAll), and singer Jude Perl, LaBonté deliver a bravura performance of a parade of Gaye’s hits.

LaBonté channels Marvin’s silky, soulful vocal tones, complex Rhythm and Blues stylings and funky movement in riveting solos that showcase his velvety voice and exhilarating upper register.

The song list includes the emotional What’s Going On, the sensual Lets Get it On, and a sassy, erotic rendition of Sexual Healing.

LaBonté sings Ain’t No Mountain High Enough in a dynamic duet with Perl, sends tingles down the spine with his poignant Wherever I Lay My Hat, and has the audience rocking in their seats during the intoxicating I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

Perl’s jazz-blues voice is bright and warm in her solos and blends well with LaBonté in their distinctive harmonies, although she does not compare with LaBonté’s skillful acting and nuanced performance of songs.

We learn about Gaye’s chequered history of childhood abuse, army service, touring with vocal groups, ongoing cocaine abuse, failed marriages and financial disasters.

We discover his inspired pairing with Tammi Terrell during his time with Motown, his changeable relationships with managers and producers, and his success as both a singer and songwriter.

What lets this show down is the expository dialogue (John H. Livings) that links songs, although LaBonté uses his deft acting skills to imbue it with some energy and even delivers some snippets in the sultry tones of Marvin himself.

Despite these issues with the script, director Tom Healey brings some shape, structure and style to the staging of the music of Marvin Gaye.

But it is LaBonté’s bold, charismatic performance and powerhouse voice that stays with you after leaving the theatre. See him – now!

Kate Herbert

Starring Bert LaBonté as Marvin Gaye
Jude Perl and The Funk City Band
Director/Dramaturg- Tom Healey
Writer - John H. Livings 

Songs include:
Let's Get it On
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
What’s Going On
Sexual Healing 
Wherever I Lay My Hat

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