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Review: Motown Christmas Groove

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By John Baggett

Christmas is upon us and Tyler Civic Theatre is presenting a unique show filled with music, holiday cheer, and lots of soul. This holiday season they want you to get into a “Motown Christmas Groove.”

“Motown Christmas Groove” is not a typical show for TCT. It isn’t a play or a musical. It’s more of a concert. The show is split into two halves. The first half tells the story of Motown, featuring renditions of “Stop in the Name of Love,” “My Girl,” “What’s Going On,” and “Superstition,” just to name a few. The second half is the story of Christmas, focusing on classic holiday songs such as “Oh, Holy Night,” “Little Drummer Boy,” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

“Motown Christmas Groove” is directed and arranged by George Faber and his wife Anita Faber. The pair put together a truly wonderful show filled with great music. With an assembled group of talented singers and musicians, they create a night of entertainment that needs to be seen. The rules of theater decorum are thrown out, so instead of being asked to sit quietly, you will be encouraged to sing, clap, and dance along with the show.

Assembled to bring the show together are a brilliant band featuring Mr. Faber on keyboards, Hayden McMullen on guitar, Ralph Deveraux Jr. on bass, Montrael Sanders on drums, and Giant Boykin on saxophone and flute. The singers, conducted by and including Mrs. Faber, are comprised of a talented group of men and women.

The female singers are Shirley-Watkins Clark, Barbara Cox, Wanda Dews, DeAnna Hargrove, Lynne Dews Malone, Regina Money, Queena Mwanda, Desirey Olson, Erica Williams-Rider, Shani Scott, Debbie Kirkland Waffer, Cherlynn Wheeler, Shirley Witherspoon, and Crystal Wynn. The male vocalists are Anthony Brown, Branderious Dillard, Billy Harrell, Ryan Jackson, Randall Powell, Marvin L. Taylor, and Steven Young.

While all the performances are amazing, my personal favorites included Anita Faber singing a rendition “O, Holy Night,” which would feel as equally appropriate in a Sunday morning service or at a smoky, jazzy nightclub. I was also was blown away by Marvin Taylor doing “Superstition,” which is my absolute favorite Stevie Wonder song. I also have to give special shout outs to Steven Young channeling young Michael Jackson on “I Want You Back,” during which I kept waiting for him to Moonwalk (even though that was a different era for MJ), and Shirley Watkins-Clarke’s performance of “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”

“Motown Christmas Groove” is a fantastic show for the holidays. It will leave you with a smile on your face and a song in your heart (or head…or both). If you are a fan of Motown, jazz, blues, gospel, or just music in general, you owe it yourself to see this show. It’s one of the grooviest things I’ve seen at Tyler Civic Theatre.

“Motown Christmas Groove” opened Friday, December 7th, and runs through Sunday, December 16th at Tyler Civic Theatre, located at 400 Rose Park Drive in Tyler.  For more information and to purchase tickets, go to http://tylercivictheatre.com/production/2018-2019/motown-christmas.

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