Recommended *** “The Marvin Gaye Story (Don’t Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend)” is not one of my favorite Black Ensemble Theatre productions. As I’ve come to expect at BET, the music is the best. The story line, on the other hand, was dark and ugly, revealing way more than I wanted to know about the singer’s private life. I didn’t like “The Marvin Gaye Story” at all, so I give it 3 Spotlights.
I really disliked the frequent, nasty scenes hinting at domestic violence between Marvin’s parents, which were used as segues between Marvin’s musical successes and/or episodes in the studio. Although it is well-known that Marvin Gaye had a miserable childhood, suffering frequent and brutal beatings by his father, who ruled the family with his belt, we just didn’t need to see the man abusing his wife and children.
On the other hand, “The Marvin Gaye Story” is almost a textbook example in the Cycle of Abuse, which is available at any women’s shelter. His mother’s unwillingness and/or inability to leave her abuser is typical. Anyone who volunteers at a shelter also knows that people who were abused often become abusers, which would explain his own tempestuous relationships.
I’m not sure what the subtitle “Don’t Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend” really means, but the story begins and ends with Marvin, wearing all white, talking about his life and death.
The first three songs in this production are not even Marvin Gaye’s songs. The first, “Ten Commandments of Love”, he sang with Harvey Fuqua’s Moonglows. The second, Smokey Robinson’s “Operator” was recorded by Mary Wells and Brenda Holloway. The third, “Guess Who” was recorded by B. B. King.
Although Marvin Gaye’s recording of “How Sweet It Is (to be Loved by You)” reached # 6 on the charts, I found it curious that it was not included. He wrote and sang the ballad, “Pride and Joy”, released in 1962 on the Tamia label.
When Motown teamed Marvin up with Tammi Terrell, the pair had a string of hits, of which “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “You’re All I Need To Get By” are the only two included. Marvin was devastated when Tammi passed away. The first act concludes with his 1968 hit, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”.
The second act deals with Marvin’s struggle with depression, drugs and alcohol. This act includes some of his greatest hits, “What’s Goin On”, “Let’s Get It On”, “Distant Lover”, “Trouble Man” and “Sexual Healing”.
“The Marvin Gaye Story” runs through July 10th at Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street, Chicago.
Running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with an intermission.
Thursdays at 7:30 pm
Fridays at 8:00 pm
Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 pm
Sundays at 3:00 pm.
Tickets range from $55-$65. Indoor Valet parking is available in BET’s attached garage.
To order tickets or for information, call (773) 769-4451 or www.blackensemble.org.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Marvin Gaye Story”
Editor note: No matter what the show at Black Ensemble, one always find great talent and voices that fit the music. So, even when the script is weak, your experience will be one filled with music that will have you humming on the way home.