Hundreds hope to hit it big at Motown musical auditions

Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

Detroit – — A long line of singing hopefuls, some dressed in '60s fashions, wanted a shot at the big time in the same tiny recording studio that launched the careers of numerous Motown acts.

They waited for hours outside Motown Museum on West Grand Boulevard to audition for a spot in "Motown: The Musical," which opens at the Fisher Theatre on Wednesday.

Later, singer Michael Bolton was the surprise entertainment Tuesday night at the Motown Homecoming gala at the Roostertail, part of the celebratory events surrounding the Detroit premiere.

"This music is in my DNA," Bolton said, before performing. "This is the music I grew up with in Connecticut."

Christiana Perrault, 18, auditions for “Motown: The Musical” at Detroit’s Motown Museum. Afterward, she was asked to hang around. “I can breath now, barely,” she said. “It’s amazing to be able to sing in that studio, to know they’ve all been in there and now I’m in there!”

The Chairman himself, Berry Gordy, arrived just before the presentations started, proclaiming "I feel great," as his singers and staffers pressed in to hug him.

At the Motown Museum, 325 people over 7½ hours put their talents on display. Those selected will be a part of the 27-person touring and 32-person Broadway casts for the production written by music pioneer Gordy, 84, about his rags-to-riches life story.

The show tells how Gordy's Motown Records empire rose and fell and then rose again. It uses dozens of songs, including "War," "What's Going On?" "My Girl" and "Dancing in the Street."

Youngster Deon Terrell and his parents were the first in line getting to the museum at 5:30 a.m. Around noon, he and his parents were waiting with others inside the museum's gift shop.

"I am going to sing 'Who's Loving You' by Michael Jackson," Deon, 10, said.

A line of singers winds in front of the museum as hopefuls audition for parts in the cast of “Motown: The Musical.”

Deon's mom, Terri Merritt, said her son was born with talent but she didn't want to push him into the spotlight. "We were just waiting for him to feel like he was ready," Merritt said. "He was singing before he could talk."

Cesar Rocha, a casting assistant from Telsey + Company, said being in the building where the Motown sound was produced is amazing.

"This is crazy," Rocha said. "The songs they will be singing were recorded here."

The auditions took place in the former Studio A, where many Motown classics were recorded during the label's 1960s and early '70s heyday.

Karessa Craig was standing outside, second from the last person in line. Craig heard about the audition Tuesday morning on the radio after dropping her daughter off at school.

Craig planned to sing an old hymn, "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow." Hopefully, said the newly single mother of a 5-, 2-, and 1-year-old, a successful audition could lead to a new lease on life. "I am ready for it," Craig said of stardom. "I am just coming out of a bad marriage, so I am trying to start over."

The Associated Press contributed.