Sharp Guy Q&A - Richard Taylor Woods, actor and Resident Director of Motown The Musical

There's hardly anyone that doesn't have a favourite Motown song. If it's not something from The Temptations or Four Tops, it will be something from The Supremes, Smokey Robinson or any of the other legendary acts that made up the scene. The music transcends generations, musical tastes and all the other constrictions that usually divide us.

Since February 2016, The Shaftesbury Theartre on London's West End has been home to Motown The Musical, which tells the story of Berry Gordy, the Motown Records founder, and the many struggles that came with getting the label off the ground. 

We sat down with Richard Taylor Woods, actor and resident director of Motown The Musical to talk about being part of this iconic show and his career to date.   

Tell us about Motown The Musical and the role you play in it 

So, Motown the Musical is a musical play telling the story of how the legendary music and entertainment company, Motown Records was founded. It follows the story of the man, Berry Gordy,  who discovered acts like The Temptations, Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder to name a few and how he fought a prejudiced and racist entertainment industry to put those acts on the path to fame, success and fortune.

In the production I play a varied selection of record executives, DJs, racist security guards, accountants and band managers. Pretty much all the characters that were against Motown and some that were white employees of Berry Gordy as he was actually very fair and not prejudiced at all.

What is the biggest challenge with being involved in such an iconic show?

The biggest challenge in a production like this is keeping it fresh and new every night. We do the show 8 times a week and we have to remember that the audience is seeing it for the first time and have paid good money to watch, so we owe that to them. I am also Resident Director for the show which means under the guidance of the associate director, it is my job to keep tabs on making sure we're running well.

What is the biggest reward?

The biggest reward to be honest is appreciating that I get paid for doing what I love and wanted to do from a young age. You can't put a price on that. It's invaluable. 

How did you get into theatre?

I got into theatre on an open audition which anybody can attend from a newspaper (The Stage Newspaper). I always wanted to be a performer but sidestepped the drama school route which I would have loved to attend. I would have liked to have gone to RADA to learn intensely the technique of acting and value the prestige of what is one of the top drama schools in the U.K., If not the world. But I got a West End job by massive chance and never looked back. The job was a musical about a fictional boyband called Boyband the Musical which ran at the Gielgud Theatre in 1999. 

We were then given a record deal and released a single under the name Britpack. There are some videos on YouTube if you are interested. That was my first big job. We did the Smash Hits tour with Westlife and S Club 7 and did TV shows like Ant and Dec's SMTV. We got to 41 in the UK charts and got dropped by the label. By then I had an agent and began auditioning for other shows. 

How have things changed between when you started in theatre and now?

The biggest change from when I started in the business is that the amount of actors just gets bigger. The influx of reality TV means even more people are being offered entertainment jobs and perhaps people not even really qualified for such positions win roles. It can be frustrating when one feels they have paid their dues and a part goes to a person who has been on a talent show for 5 mins. 

If you could give yourself at the beginning of your career some advice, what would you say?

Advice to myself as a young actor starting would be to be humble, be confident(not arrogant) be prepared that there will always be someone doing better than you and not to compare your career to someone else's. Be happy with your choices, don't take a job and moan about it for the contract. Hold off and wait for something you really want. 

What does the future hold for you?

The future will hold Motown until March 2018 and then it'll be auditions and seeing what comes up next! It's the best and worst thing about being an actor in equal measure. You never know what's around the corner but you never know what might be around the corner! 

Motown The Musical is running at The Shaftesbury Theatre until March 2018. Tickets are available here. 

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