NYC Students Go Inside Broadway with Motown the Musical


On May 22, more than 2,000 NYC public school students went behind the scenes of Motown, The Musical on Broadway, courtesy of Inside Broadway's Creating the Magic program, which aims to introduce young children to live theater.

There’s a lot more than glitz and glamour when putting together a Broadway musical. It’s hard work—something a few thousand NYC public school students found out first-hand when Inside Broadway’s Creating the Magic program took them behind the scenes of Tony-nominated Motown, The Musical.

On May 22, more than 2,000 children piled into the historic Lunt Fontanne Theatre to learn just how much work goes into putting together a Broadway musical.

“The theater is more than just actors on a stage,” said Michael Presser, founder and executive director of Inside Broadway. Presser opened the program by giving the students a history of the ornate theater they were sitting in. Originally built in 1910, it has been host to various famous works, including the premiere of the 1959 classic-turned-major-motion-picture The Sound of Music.

Motown, The Musical follows the Lunt Fontanne Theatre tradition of excellence by chronicling the journey of how the father of Motown, Berry Gordy, changed America with a sound it still listens to today.

Many of the students cheered and sang along with the actors during the musical selections, including top Motown hits like “Stop in the Name of Love” made popular by the Supremes and “ABC” by the Jackson 5. During the number “Reach Out and Touch,” Dionne Figgins, who plays Diana Ross in the musical, taught the audience the chorus and invited several children to sing along with her onstage.

“I’ve never seen such a great Broadway show before,” said Jeremy Ruiz, a student from P-17X.

The energy in the room was palpable as various workers from the stage and behind the scenes instructed and performed for the students. Oohs, ahhs, and gasps escaped from the students as professionals took them through the various jobs on set, including how they work the lights, sounds, and props. During a demonstration of the musical’s scene changes, one student yelled from the audience as a living room floated onto the stage, “Is that magic?”

While not really magic, the students got to see how training and dedication could lead to some magical results.

“It’s hard work,” said Alan Bain, close friend of Presser and supporter of Inside Broadway. “Glamorous maybe, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there, to stay there.”

Figgins explained to the students how she is constantly working and improving her skills as an actress. She takes classes and has to study; just like many of the students there were taking classes that they had to study for. It wasn’t that much different, Figgins said, and she encouraged the students to work hard at school and never stop learning.

In an age where everything can be recorded, uploaded, and watched online at any time, Presser said, he was happy that he was able to give these students the chance to learn about and see live theater.

“It only happens now, and then it’s gone,” Presser said of theater. “To be able to give the kids the opportunity to experience some of that is a wonderful thing.”