Review by David Walters

Talk about a gifted woman.  I can’t say enough about the talent Alicia Hall Moran emitted during THE MOTOWN PROJECT, now streaming for free at The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Series. Her presence and her vocalization gifts are striking, mesmerizing, and deep. Her talent and sense of self comes pouring out across the screen as vibrant, large, and colorful as the Grandiflora roses she carries. 

The large themes of life and love, which are heightened in opera, connect and meld with parallel themes of Motown hits in this mashup of musicality that was written by Ms. Moran.  It was all sparked to creation on a transatlantic flight while listening to the Motown channel on the plane. These songs from her youth began to overlay on her classical training and both themes and stylings began to meld in her mind’s ear. Before she de-planed, a seed was sprouting.

Marvin Gaye, Georges Bizet, Stevie Wonder, Wolfgang Mozart, Brain Holland, Gian Carlo Menotti, Henry Purcell all join hands and jump into the deep end together. What if Brian Holland’s Motown hit Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch (I Can’t Help Myself) were expressed in an operatic form?  Where does the Motown style bend enough to fit into the opera genre? 

I’m not here as an expert (far from it) in all things musical, to tell you about the melisma comparisons in soul and opera and how they blend in this piece, but to tell you if, and why, you should or shouldn’t watch a particular performance. 

If you are intrigued by the idea of this blending and comparison of opera and Motown, then yes, do watch, and listen, and hear the commonalities and comparisons as they slide back and forth one from the other.  If you are looking for a story or song-set to transport you, then don’t watch and move on to something else. If you hate opera, this is not for you. If you want to see and hear a tower of talent dancing between two heavily emotional music styles, then do watch, and do listen.  She’s fabulous.  Alicia Hall Moran can sing the phonebook, as the old adage goes, and we would beg for more.

The Motown Project
By Alicia Hall Moran
Presented by Joe’s Pub
Part of Joe’s Pub New York Voices Commission
Executive Producer: Thomas O. Kriegsmann / ArKtype

Featuring Thomas Flippin (guitar), Steven Herring (vocals), Barrington Lee (vocals), Jason Moran (piano), and Reggie Washington (bass) in collaboration with choreographer Amy Hall Garner.

Free on-demand streaming begins January 8, 2021 at 8:00PM EST