Songs in the Key of Motown 2020 tour to play The Art House, Wyong, and Ettalong Diggers

CELEBRATION: Eight vocalists and a rocking band pay homage to the prolific Motown record company and its galaxy of stars. Picture: Supplied.
CELEBRATION: Eight vocalists and a rocking band pay homage to the prolific Motown record company and its galaxy of stars. Picture: Supplied.

EVERYONE knows Motown songs, but what was it about the prolific American record company that enabled it to become such a hot house for hits?

Singer and dancer Marque Munday has spent more time than most pondering that question.

Munday stars in the US-based production Songs in the Key of Motown, which has returned to Australia for a new tour which takes in The Art House, in Wyong, next week, and Ettalong Diggers next month.

"I think Motown was really instrumental in setting a style," Munday said.

"When you hear Motown music, you know it's Motown.

"But the artists had individual voices. The artists didn't sound the same. It was OK that Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight sounded different, but you could still recognise them and they were both at Motown at the same time.

"And you knew when The Supremes were singing. It did not sound like Martha Reeves and the Vandellas."

Songs in the Key of Motown focuses on the legendary feel-good Motown hits of the 1960s and 1970s.

The male vocal group in the show, Spectrum, perform hits by artists such as The Four Tops (Baby I Need Your Loving), Stevie Wonder (Superstition), The Temptations (My Girl), and Smokey Robinson (The Tracks of my Tears).

Songs in the Key of Motown preview

Munday, meanwhile, and her all-girl quartet, Radiance, belt out hits by The Supremes (Baby Love), Diana Ross (I'm Coming Out) Martha and the Vandellas (Dancing in the Street), and The Marvellets (Too Many Fish in the Sea).

Munday said she delighted in watching the reaction of audience members as they recognised the opening bars of so many cherished songs.

"They recognise them all," she said.

"Whether it's Stop in the Name of Love or My Girl, they know it.

"As soon as they hear the downbeat there's no question mark in their heads."

From that moment, it's party on.

"The audiences are very much engaged with us," Munday said.

"And because they know the songs, they want to sing along, and we encourage them to get up and dance."

Munday said it was remarkable to think that such an astonishing catalogue of songs - by some of the greatest songwriters and singers of the last century - all came out of such a humble studio in Detroit in the 1960s.

In that decade, Motown achieved 79 records in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Songs in the Key of Motown will be performed at The Art House, Wyong, on Thursday, February 20 (tickets cost $65) and at Ettalong Diggers on Sunday, March 8 (tickets cost $50).

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