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July 28, 2014, 2:29 pm

‘My Brother Marvin’ goes behind the music

“My Brother Marvin,” the musical stage drama chronicling the turbulent life and tragic death of Motown legend Marvin Gaye, returns to the Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St.,

Feb. 19 to 24.

Balladeer Keith Washington ("Kissing You") reprises the role of Marvin Gaye, and Image Award-winning actor Clifton Powell plays his father, Marvin Pence Gaye, Sr. Emmy Award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield ("Josephine Baker Story") portrays Marvin's mother, Alberta Gaye in this story "inspired by and told from the vantage point" of Marvin's sister Zeola "Sweetsie" Gaye.

"Through the years, I became taken aback and disappointed with everything that had been written, said and published about my family, especially my brother," said Zeola Gaye. "In the play, I simply wanted to set the record straight. I wanted to leave a true account about Marvin the man and our family. People need to know what really happened and Marvin would want his fans to really know what happened. We are finally bringing the truth the world needs and must know."    

The entertaining and enlightening production is directed by versatile veteran actor Clifton Powell, best known for his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr. in "Selma Lord Selma" and as Jeff Brown in the feature film "Ray." While initially, he was not enlisted to direct, Powell accepted the challenge when the opportunity arose.

"I came on that project when it was in Detroit and (playwright) Angela Barrow-Dunlap and Zeola Gaye asked me when I was there [to play] Marvin's father, they said, 'We are really in a real jam here. Can you direct this thing?'" Powell said from Detroit, the first city on the tour.

"I was like, 'Uhhh...' We had like a week and a half to get it up, and I said, 'Okay.' That's how this thing came about, but I directed a little independent movie called 'Jada,' and I directed 'Man of Her Dreams' and 'There's a Stranger in My House,' they are DVD pieces that I've directed with Swirl Films. This is like my fourth time directing. I don't necessarily bill myself as an experienced director. I just feel blessed that God has given me a vision. It's very challenging though. Directing is very, very challenging."    

"My Brother Marvin" was well received when the tour came to Philadelphia five years ago, but Powell, who directed the original production, said that the updated version has been expanded and improved.

"There's a lot of changes," he said. "A lot more extensive in terms of the information that it gives about Marvin. It's really deep. It's not going to be vulgar, but it's shocking.

"It's going to be a wonderful, wonderful evening in the theater," Powell said in conclusion. "You're going to be entertained. You're going to laugh, you're going to cry, you're going to stomp your feet, you're gonna shout, but there's some parts of Marvin's life that were very painful, and we're going to show a little bit more of that this time. So for people who saw it last time, we're doing, this time, Marvin Gaye — the man behind the music. It's very, very riveting. Lynn Whitfield is incredible, the cast — Tony Grant, Keith Washington, John Canada Terrell and all the ensemble players and the dancers, the musicians ... Angela Barrow wrote a wonderful script. It's an incredible show, and people are really going to be entertained and touched."    

Tickets can be purchased online at kimmelcenter.org or ticketphiladelphia.org by calling (215) 893-1999 and at The Kimmel Center Box Office (open daily from 10 a. to 6 p.m. The Call Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

 

Contact entertainment reporter Kimberly C. Roberts at (215) 893-5753 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .