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Theatre Review by Lisa Romeo
What: Let’s Get it On – The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye
Where: The Melbourne Athenaeum Theatre
When: 13 May to 25 May
Starring Bert LaBonte
Introducing Jude Perl
Featuring The Funk City Band
The Melbourne Athenaeum is one of the oldest public institutions in Victoria. Founded in 1839, since 2003 it has been the principal home of Melbourne Opera. But tonight the crowds are gathered in this beautiful old building to enjoy a sold out night of Let’s Get it On - The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye.
Brought to Melbourne from the producers of The Man in Black – the Johnny Cash Story and At Last – The Etta James Story, this narrative concert is the quintessential story of a genius and famous musician, Marvin Gaye, who was born in Washington D.C. to a minister, Marvin Gaye Senior, and a domestic worker Alberta Gaye.
His childhood of poverty and domestic violence centred on an alcoholic father who battered and bruised his young child from an early age; such a cowardly act that left Marvin Gaye with deep psychological scars throughout his short life time. It is believed that had Marvin Gaye’s mother not encouraged his singing, he would have been a child suicide case. His sister later confirmed that Marvin was beaten often, from age seven well into his teens. Marvin's relationship with his father worsened during his teenage years. Following an argument in which he stood up against his father, Marvin walked out of the house for good and dropped out of high school.
The timing could not have been more perfect, the emergence of Rock & Roll, Soul and R&B music in the 1950’s and 60’s influenced the young and infuriated the older generation. Many young musicians and fans were rejuvenated and given a voice in which they could themselves be freed; it was the greatest form of rebellion for those that were seeking to find an outlet.
Marvin Gaye was rescued by music; he found solace and discovered his gift and himself. His creative abilities allowed the rebirth of a young man who would otherwise have fallen. His salvation in music resulted in extreme fortune and fame, selling millions of records and influencing many artists. He purchased properties all over the world, many prestigious cars and anything money could buy. He shared his fortunes with his family and purchased a mansion in LA for his parents to live in.
Marvin loved to be out on the road; nothing was too hard or too tough (understandable given his tortured upbringing). It is no surprise that the comfort that fame and recognition gave him stemmed from the fact that he never received such acceptance and praise from his father, but it came with a price. As so often is the case, fortune leads to excess, most commonly in the abuse of drugs and alcohol and Marvin was no exception, he took many falls, despite his success.
Let’s Get it on - the Life and Music of Marvin Gaye celebrates this superbly talented musician, singer and songwriter who is known as ‘The Prince of Motown’ and ‘The Prince of Soul’. The show features Marvin's most treasured songs including I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Ain't No Mountain High Enough, What's Going On and of course the song that stood out amongst all the rest, the Grammy Award winning Sexual Healing.
This superb concert showcases some of Australia’s finest musicians - the eight piece Funk City Band and the introduction of singer, songwriter and pianist Jude Perl, who I thought was an absolute stand out, come together with the Helpmann Award winning singer and actor Bert LaBonte, who has such presence on stage and delivers a heartfelt performance, while projecting a great respect and admiration for Marvin Gaye, the man and the artist.
The stage is set up Hollywood style with all the glitz, glamour and bright lights deserved of any high class show. The vocalists wear leather and shimmering gold; they look dazzling and sophisticated.
Like Marvin there were countless musicians who followed the same path of the rise to fame and fortune and all of the highs and lows that come with it. However Marvin’s story is one more shocking and horrific than most; on the morning of April 1st 1984, in his parents Los Angeles home, he was shot to death by his father. The next day, April 2nd would have been his forty-fifth birthday.
5 stars
Marvin Gaye was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
In memory of Marvin Gaye April 2nd 1939 to April 1st 1984.