› What: “Motown the Musical”
› Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.
› When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, April 17-19
› Admission: $37, $52, $67 and $77
› For more information: 423-757-5580
Less than two years after graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Matthew Keaton is cast in his first national tour of a Broadway musical — a coveted gig he won on his first New York audition.
"I still can't believe it myself," he laughs during a phone interview. "It's a blessing."
Keaton and the cast of "Motown the Musical" will stop in the Tivoli Theatre for three shows Tuesday-Thursday nights, April 17-19. He's anticipating a big homecoming with friends coming to see him "in full force."
"Motown" is the Broadway musical about the American dream of Motown founder Berry Gordy. It follows his journey from the teen who dropped out of school to pursue boxing to the music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more artists.
"It's the thought process behind the creation of Motown, how it started as an idea. Then it shows every stage of what Mr. Gordy went through trying to change the world with music," Keaton describes.
"His objective was to bring people together through music. We are still trying to bring people together. We are touring the country promoting unity."
Keaton is a swing actor, meaning he changes roles constantly to fill the cast where needed. Look for him in the Temptations' numbers next week.
"I know the show at least three different ways. I cover six people in the show, and each person has at least four different people to portray because the show travels through time."
Keaton says "Motown's" 1960s costuming delights the audience.
"We have everything from the shiniest of suits to the sparkliest of dresses and all the high wigs. It's like stepping into a time machine."
Nearly 60 songs are included in the score — all the old favorites from Jackson 5's "ABC" to Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Audiences will groove to "Stop in the Name of Love," "My Girl," "Dancing in the Street," "Brick House" and "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) — just to name a few.
The UTC alum says watching the audience's delight in the production, the grins of recognition when they hear the first notes of their favorite songs, is proving to be his biggest delight in touring with this production.
"The most fun has to be seeing the reactions of people seeing certain outfits when we come out onstage. They don't expect it. We're taking them to a place they've lived already."
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Keaton, 23, came to UTC from Memphis. He graduated in 2016 with a degree in communications. Active in numerous campus activities, theater surprisingly wasn’t one of them.
“I had been doing community theater in Memphis since I was very little. When I got to college, I said I wanted to have a social life. I didn’t want to say ‘I can’t, I have rehearsal’ any more. I made a conscious decision not to go into theater. I only did theater during summer breaks in Memphis.”
Instead, he sang in Chamber Singers, Chattanooga Singers and directed the Littleton Mason Gospel Choir. He was active in the Black Student Alliance, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and Olivet Baptist Church college ministry. He co-hosted the annual Step Show and was on the homecoming committee.
After graduation, he worked the front desk of a Memphis hotel. During that time, he applied for a residency at The Open Jar Institute in New York City, a Broadway actor training program. He was one of 13 actors from around the world chosen for the residency. He moved to New York for the eight-week training.
His last week at The Open Jar, Keaton went to “Motown” auditions. Just before leaving NYC for Memphis last Thanksgiving, he got the call that he’d been cast. Rehearsals started in November; his stage debut was in January.