If there ever was a busier week coming up for the Motown Historical Museum, it's hard to think of one.
"Motown: The Musical," penned by company founder Berry Gordy Jr., opens at the Fisher Theatre on Oct. 21, followed by a red carpet premiere Oct. 22, and there are a slate of VIP happenings keyed to the musical opening that will benefit the museum.
First up is a "Homecoming" event Oct. 21 at the Roostertail, presided over by Gordy, that will be a reunion of the founder and as many of his surviving Motown performers and staff as can be mustered. Also planned is a VIP reception Oct. 22 at the St. Regis Hotel featuring Motown luminaries to honor museum patrons, before the premiere at the Fisher Theatre.
Ticketholders who buy a special $500 package may attend the Oct. 22 musical and both VIP events, sponsored by Art Van.
"The Homecoming event is about honoring my uncle (Gordy) and about him honoring the Motown family," says Robin R. Terry, chairman of the museum's Board of Trustees.
"Some of these people shone brightly on stage and some behind the scenes. For the museum, it was important for us to recognize them because it's their story being told onstage at the Fisher. We'll be joined by Art Van Elslander (founder of Art Van). He is our host for the evening and premier sponsor. He's truly passionate about Detroit, about Motown, and the museum and he wanted to make sure that we could deliver these events."
Van Elslander and Art Van Furniture also are funding a Motown parade float for America's Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit, the first Motown float ever, which will be seen by a national audience in the Thanksgiving morning telecast.
For his part, Gordy is more than ready for the parties, the premieres and, especially, introducing his young cast members to his hometown.
"All the cast is aware of Detorit and thrilled to be playing in front of the original stars, especially in their own hometown," Gordy says in a phone interview with The Detroit News. "They tell me they feel that Detroit is somehow magic. And it is. Detroit is magic. They all want to feel that magic and get it."
With "Motown: The Musical" playing on Broadway since 2013 and now on the road, Terry reports that the afterglow effect is real. Visits to the museum, at 2648 W. Grand Blvd., are up, she says.
"Our visitors come from all over the world, and they're talking about the musical," Terry says. "People see it and want to visit the birthplace and see where all of that began. For us, it's a very positive thing, no downside.
"The musical is an example of how Motown's legacy just keeps transcending generations," she says. "It's that powerful a collection of songs, that strong a bond of family, that great a cultural force where, well over 50 years later, it's still inspiring people and drawing audiences."
His return home for the recent Crain's Detroit-sponsored Detroit Homecoming gave Gordy a chance to catch up on all the activity in the city.
"Right before my eyes, I could see all this development and movement, it was just incredible. It's definitely on the upgrade, and I'm very excited about all of that."
After Motown moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, Terry's grandmother (and Gordy's sister) Esther Gordy Edwards kept the doors to Motown open and gathered as much memorabilia as she could, to the tolerant amusement of her brother. Her efforts were redeemed when Hitsville evolved into a real museum.
What would Edwards think about "Motown: The Musical," in which she is a character (usually throwing shade on her brother's grandiose plans) and the attendant hoopla?
"I know that she would be so incredibly proud, not only of her brother, but of the Motown family, of this legacy, and of herself for having that vision to preserve it," Terry says. "She always knew it was important."
Special packages to benefit the museum
It's not too late to attend the Oct. 21 red carpet premiere night: For a $500 "Hitsville USA Patron" ticket to "Motown: The Musical," you may attend the two VIP events:
Oct. 21: "Homecoming" reception, 6-9 p.m. Attending this Roostertail event will be Berry Gordy Jr., Smokey Robinson, assorted Motown alumni and staff, Motown Historical Museum patrons and local dignitaries. On tap: dancing, "Hitsville cocktails" and food. There will also be a sneak peek at the Motown Museum Thanksgiving parade float, sponsored by Art Van Furniture.
Oct. 22: Gala reception at the St. Regis Hotel, Detroit, 5-7 p.m. Motown stars and alumni, including Gordy, Robinson and others, will partake in a strolling supper. Attendees get preferred seating at the musical and a gift bag.
There is also a $250 "Studio A Patron" ticket, which includes priority seating for the musical, an intermission cocktail, a Motown gift bag and a complimentary Motown Museum tour.
For information or to purchase tickets, call Tonette Bryant-Carter at the Motown Historical Museum at (313) 875-2264 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Motown Week events
Oct. 21: Open call auditions from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. for the musical at the Motown Museum. Call (313) 872-2264 for information.
Oct. 23: The museum's Motown.edu program, sponsored by General Motors, will feature "Motown: The Musical" director Charles Randolph Wright and cast members in a special educational program and Q&A session from 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m. for students that will also be broadcast to more than 1,000 Detroit Public School students. Motown.edu's first event was in August, a session led by Rhonda Ross-Kendrick, daughter of Berry Gordy Jr. and Diana Ross.