Reviews – Let’s Get It On: The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye ft. Jude Perl, Bert Labonte and The Funk City Band

This review was published on the AU review on 28/05/2014 and can be viewed here. My interview with leading man Bert Labonte can be viewed here.

Motown marvel Marvin Gaye lived a tumultuous life, yet during their narrative theatre production telling his story, Jude Perl and Bert Labonte were able to exude humour and wittiness into his tragic history.

During the two-hour production singer/songwriter Jude Perl and actor/singer Bert Labonte narrated deep into Gaye’s life.

Marking 30 years since Gaye’s father, Marvin Gaye Senior, shot him to death, Let’s Get It On is supported by a soundtrack of Gaye’s greatest hits, keeping the audience singing and clapping all throughout the night.

Labonte was suave, sexy and his voice matched closely to that of Gaye’s. The harmonies between Labonte and Jude were flawless, and the pair was definitely matched well in being chosen to portray Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Each were supportive of the other when singing on their own and even joked around with each other whilst narrating.

Act one opened with Labonte centre stage to perform “What’s Going On” and finished off with a superb duet between our stars for “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Act two was far more enjoyable to watch with a more disco feel to it. The Funk City Band – a bunch of amazingly talented Melbournian, international performing artists put together for the production – opened with an instrumental of the soulful “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” before our leads entered the stage to bring in the vocals. The band added a funky, lively element that was essential in encouraging the audience to sing along and bop their heads throughout the entire show.

It wasn’t just Bert who got to sing Gaye’s parts, Perl did as well. Through these singing parts you could really tell they both have a deep respect for Gaye as an artist and a person; an influence on both of their musical styles and lives.

The highlight of the night and a big surprise was when Perl sashayed over to the piano for a tease bit of “Sexual Healing” – the song that made her apparent to the producers of the show. They happened upon her hilarious and soothing rendition of the tune on her Youtube channel, and the rest, as they say, is history. Later on the full track was performed with both Labonte and Perl harmonising. The night finished off with the audience dancing in the aisles to “Dancing In The Street.”

Jude has been performing in Melbourne as a singer for a couple of years now, however this was her first theatrical venture. The praise for her performance hasn’t come just from the media and audience members seeing this show, but from her cast members as well. During an interview with Mimi and Scott from ‘Arts at Dark’ Labonte said of Jude’s voice, “She is extraordinary, I can’t… The voice is like chocolate; it’s just that velvet, rich. So she sings and I’m like (laughs) no pressure here at all (laughs again).

Other reviewers spoke of Labonte’s professionalism and Jude’s lack of experience resulting in uneasiness on the stage. However, tonight both Labonte and Perl were as spectacular. Perl handed things well when Labonte threw in adlib dialogue into their rehearsed lines.

This performance has shown Melbournians why Labonte is such a lovable Australian performer and has brought a wider audience to the talent that is Perl. Her EP 3am was selling well, alongside the performance’s program and she is definitely one to watch upon her return to Australia in November from a six-month stint she is about to embark on in recording her debut album in Los Angeles. The short run of this show will surely have her getting more offers in the not so distant future. This show will definitely have you smiling the entire two hours.

Jude 'Tammi Terrell' Perl and Bert 'Marvin Gaye' Labonte - the stars of the show
Jude ‘Tammi Terrell’ Perl and Bert ‘Marvin Gaye’ Labonte – the stars of the show – Photograph by Lillian Altman

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