We caught up with Motown the Musical’s Marvin Gaye, played by Sifiso Mazibuko to take you on a journey behind the scenes and find out about his show highlights, rituals and challenges.
I get to play Marvin Gaye! And also this is my West End debut, so maybe that’s the best thing about it.
“You’re All I Need To Get By”, love it!
I did a lot of reading and research on his life. I read a lot of biographies and watched as many YouTube videos and archive footage as I could find. I tried to watch him as much I could for his mannerisms and just the way that he was.
I guess the highest high (which I think won’t be beat ever!) was that on press night my wife went into labour with our first baby girl. I finished the show upon her instruction, because she said that her contractions had only just begun but she was getting to the phase where she was going to be in active labour. She was here watching the show when her water broke! At the interval she said she was going to the hospital,that I should finish the show and she would let me know what was happening. So yeah, that was the highest of highs – in my life!
I did! Upon her instruction, again. She was very gracious about that! She told me that it would be a couple of hours still before she actually had to do the serious work of pushing the baby out. They sent her home, so she said I should go to the party. I only stayed at the party for an hour then I got a cab and went home to find her in serious active labour! We went to the hospital, saw the midwife, and then 45 minutes later the baby was out!
I wouldn’t say rituals necessarily, but I do spend a lot of my time in the dressing room in between my scenes, songs and appearances. Usually, at the beginning of the show I will take some time to do my own warm up, apart from the full company warm up. I do have a backstage tradition with the actress who plays Anna Gordy, I guess, in that we keep Marvin and Anna’s story going until the end of the show (Marvin and Anna were married for 10 years). It’s not something that we do every night, but it is definitely something that we enjoy digging at each other, like, ‘You divorced me!’, ‘I divorced you!’
I guess it would have to be pictures of family and my djembe drum from home.
I think allowing myself to enjoy the work that I’ve done in preparing for Marvin and, even now, to not let the pressure of trying to do the best Marvin I can get in the way of what I know a lot of people have said is already good. I think that it’s a good thing because it challenges me to stay humble but also to know that wherever Marvin is, I am making him proud.
At the beginning of the whole journey it was OK, because I was easily able to let myself go into the research and sink myself into that side of things and eat it all up. I enjoyed learning so many things that I didn’t know about him. It started getting a lot more daunting when we were getting to the end of rehearsals and I retreated into myself a lot more.That was just the hardest part of preparing the role and playing him but I eventually did get there and that was fun to finally feel like ‘This is the freedom that I’m looking for in playing the role.’
It’s so many things, I can’t just say one. For me, as someone who comes from South Africa and having had the experience and exposure to the music that I had back home, it means a lot. Dad played it in the house, Mum played it, my aunts and extended family, whatever festive holidays – it was the music that we played and we enjoyed. There was definitely something in the music that made me and my family feel connected. And even now, not having seen my aunts in quite a few years, I can go home and have a lovely Christmas lunch or dinner and we can have that music in the background and it would be like time never passed or that distance between us was just not there. Ironically, I didn’t listen to Marvin Gaye growing up – I listened to The Temptations and mostly group acts. It was only about a couple of years ago that I started listening to Marvin and I realised what an amazing artist he was! Then that obsession with Marvin turned into auditioning for this role.
Marvin Gaye! I don’t just say that because I’m playing him, but because he probably has the most fascinating life story I’ve ever had to read and wrap myself around. Incredible and complex in so many ways, but very succinct in his spirituality. I would love to, if I had the opportunity to meet him, just ask, ‘Ok, so tell me what was going through your head when this happened..’