Left – Bert LaBonte and Jude Perl
April 1st, 1984, on the eve of his 45th birthday, Motown Records’ superstar Marvin Gay, renown for chart topping hits such as “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You),” “I heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Sexual Healing,” was shot and killed by his own father.
Ironically, when the news of the unfortunate incident broke out, many thought it was an April Fool’s joke, so they didn’t pay much attention to it. When Gaye’s passing was confirmed, the world was overwhelmed by a combination of shock and a devastated sense of loss. Upon learning of the incident, Rev. Al Sharpton said that Gaye’s death came “like a sick, sad joke.”
Years later Marvin Senior was asked in an interview if he ever loved his son. He replied, “Let’s just say I didn’t dislike him.”
30 years after Gaye’s death, the show, Let’s Get it On at Melbourne’s Athaeneum Theatre, starring Bert LaBonte and newcomer Jude Perl, addresses some of the unanswered concerns which were left floating out there, for the universe to revisit after all the dust and emotions settled.
LaBonte opened with an interpretation of Marvin’s rendition of the American National Anthem, the Star Spangled-Banner, which was originally performed by Gaye at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, where he brought down the house with it, as did LaBonte. Goose-bump inducing. Simply sublime!
Narrated tag-team by LaBonte and Perl, the show unfolded like a set of silk sheets on a waterbed, smooth and sexy. Between biographical flashback segments, LaBonte performs songs which were vehicles in lifting Gaye from his poverty stricken Washington D.C. neighborhood into the extreme limelight – although it was a step into the right direction, unfortunately, fame also brought with it womanizing and a serious cocaine addiction.
LaBonte nailed Gaye’s “spirit” and talent. He truly channeled the late performer, down to his seductive unparalleled swagger. It would not have surprised anyone if hotel room keys or undergarments had been thrown on stage.
Perl was a great partner to LaBonte, with an onstage chemistry allowing them to perform duets like, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” as if they had originally been written just for them. Her voice is strong and soulful, but on the night I attended, it was a bit overshadowed by the magnitude of the music.
Let’s Get it On pays tribute to the man who was blessed with musical genius and physical beauty. The show successfully transports audiences to a time in history when music transcended class and race. Motown changed the perception of “black music” and it ruled the airwaves. The king of the Motown genre was Marvin Gaye, perhaps the coolest and smoothes performer of the 20th century, and LaBonte introduces him to his audience(s) beyond credibly, he does it beautifully.
Room 8 and AT Management present
LET’S GET IT ON
The Life & Music of Marvin Gaye
by John Livings
Venue: The Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Dates: 13 – 25 May, 2014 (Extra show added 6pm Sunday 25th May)
Tickets: From $49
Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au | 13 2849