My Brother Marvin at Pantages Theater

Theater — By on May 25, 2013 at 7:28 am

Cover and Inside Photo- Zeola Gaye. Photo by Kim Webster.

By Buddy Sampson

Marvin Gaye was one of the most influential poets, singers and performers of our time. Much has been written about Gaye’s sometimes troubled life, but little has been written about his life from the perspective of his family. Zeola Gaye, Marvin’s sister, finally addresses that perspective in her book, “My Brother Marvin.” Adapted for stage by renowned writer, producer, director and playwright Angela Dunlap, the play is currently running at Pantages Theater in Hollywood, from May 23rd-to May 25th.

We had the opportunity of reviewing the play on opening night, and there were several splendid performances by members of the cast which included Clifton Powell, who played Marvin Gaye Sr. (Marvin’s Dad) and directed the production, Keith Washington, who played the older Marvin and Lynn Whitfield, who played Marvin’s mother, Alberta Gaye. Zeola located journals from her late mother and father, and the journals helped paint a canvas of a very troubled family life, that originated from Marvin Gaye Sr.’s childhood. The play was quite entertaining and was best when it explored the turbulent relationship between Marvin Gaye and his father.

However, as explained during the opening of the show, the production was unable to get clearances to use Marvin Gaye’s material and because of that, many in the audience were disappointed not to be able to hear the icon’s amazing songs, which spoke volumes of the prolific singer’s life and trials. Although there were great moments in the production, another writer that attended placed the play completely in perspective. It was like eating a lemon cake, without the delicious filling inside. Good, but you were waiting for the essence of Marvin Gaye’s music. They did the best they could with what they had to work with, singing songs that had a line or two of Marvin’s iconic songs.

We felt, in the second half of the production, when they featured a concert in Belgium, which had songs from actors and actresses that played Gladys Knight, Teddy Pendergrass and Tina Turner, a concert that Marvin didn’t attend, that it was misplaced and didn’t belong in the play. We attribute it, again, to the lack of clearances for Marvin’s music, but perhaps the play would have been better served to explore more of the family dynamic, than having songs from other artists. When the play spotlighted the relationship between Marvin and his dad and Marvin’s relationship with record company mogul Berry Gordy, the play shined.

My Brother Marvin is an entertaining play, but if you’re going to hear Marvin’s music, you’ll be disappointed. We hope that someday, the production will be able to actually use the icon’s songs. If you want to learn more about the Gaye family dynamic, however, then we recommend that you catch this play and see a number of great performances. Among the celebrities spotted at the Pantages was radio icon Lee Bailey, Actresses Ella Joyce, LaRita Shelby  and Vanessa Bell Calloway, among others.

Actress Ella Joyce. We spent several moments laughing with the down to earth star, who starred in the TV shows "Roc" and "My Wife and Kids." Photo by Kim Webster.

Vanessa Bell Calloway. Photo by Kim Webster.

Actress LaRita Shelby. Photo by Kim Webster.

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