Kevin McCollum has long been a fan of the Motown sound, its rich musical culture and, of course, Berry Gordy, the man who started the iconic American record company in Detroit.
"Motown was my life," says producer McCollum. "I wanted to be Michael Jackson. I had all the moves down."
McCollum, a native of Hawaii, attended high school in Deefield, Ill., where his aunt and uncle lived. He says it was during high school that he really immersed himself in musical theater and grew to love the art.
McCollum, along with Motown founder Gordy, and Doug Morris, chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, is the producer of Motown the Musical. The theatrical production will celebrate its first national tour debuting at Chicago's Oriental Theatre April 22 and running through July 13.
Now 51, McCollum looks back and recalls fondly his impressions of seeing The Jacksons on the popular television broadcast Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever in 1983. "It was a monumental program coupled with outstanding performances by various artists including Michael Jackson's live premiere of Billie Jean."
Motown The Musical debuted in April 2013 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway. The production, directed by Charles Randolph-Wright traces Berry Gordy's journey of starting the record company, introducing the world to monumental musical artists, and also delves into the life and dreams of the man who brought joy to the world. It's based on Gordy's autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown.
Award-winning producer McCollum's work on Motown the Musical began in 2009 after meeting with Gordy, who was ready to start talks about bringing his story and the story of the iconic record company to the stage.
Though the Motown soundtrack had always been special to him, McCollum was also struck by the cultural significance of Gordy's story and the dreams of the musical genius.
"The thing about this show is it's so joyous," McCollum says. "It's a musical journey of how art and music can change the world."
In the official program for the production, McCollum states: "I think the most compelling stories are those in which an individual seeks to make a difference in the world. That is why we literally and metaphorically raise our voices in song. Berry Gordy sought to change the world by making something so joyful that everyone, no matter their race, religion or background, had to recognize its power."
In Motown the Musical, audience members will be treated to dozens of songs made famous by the likes of artists from The Supremes, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye to The Jacksons, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder and more.
As a producer, McCollum has received Tony Awards for Best Musical for the shows Rent, Avenue Q, and In The Heights. He says he's happy to be bringing the show to Chicago to kick off the national tour.
Chicago has a great theater audience and it's very diverse, McCollum says, adding Chicago also embraced Berry Gordy and the Motown sound early on.
McCollum says Windy City audiences have also been great fans of his other works and productions of Rent, The Drowsy Chaperone, In The Heights, and Avenue Q have done well in Chicago.
The producer, who's drawn to the energetic and passionate storytelling aspects of musical theater, called the medium a great American art form.
FYI: Motown the Musical will be performed April 22 to July 13 at Chicago's Oriental Theatre, 24 W Randolph St. Tickets range from $30 to $103. Call 800.775.2000 or visit BroadwayInChicago.com.