‘My Brother Marvin’ Pays Tribute to Slain Soul Singer

he nostalgia of legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye is being kept alive by a woman who knew him very well – his sister. Zeola Gaye, together with famed playwright Angela Barrow-Dunlap, bring memories and first-hand accounts to the biographical play of the Motown and R&B legend who was shot dead by his father on April 1, 1984 at the age of 45. In My Brother Marvin, which runs through Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Fisher Theatre, the undisputed talents and works of Gaye are set in the ardent and unforgettable times of the Motown era and is relived through all-star cast members, including Image Award-winning actor Clifton Powell, Emmy Award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield, R&B superstar Keith Washington. Washington plays Gaye in his later years while up-and-comer Tony Grant plays Gaye in his earlier years. 

“This play is to really set the record straight and straighten up some of the misconceptions that have been put out there by my family, and I felt that it was time to do this,” says Zeola Gaye. “I felt it was time for people to really know Marvin and what happened to Marvin, and by finding some memoirs of my mother and father a couple of years ago, my sister Jean and I decided that we would do this and incorporate it and put out the truth.”

The soul-stirring drama chronicles each stage of the mega-star’s life, re-enacts never-seen-before moments and reveal the family’s perils including events leading up to the singer’s untimely death at age 45. At its heart, it’s a riveting and devastating look into family dysfunction where one of those family members just happens to be a superstar. “I was there when it happened,” recalls Zeola. “I will never forget it. It is like right here all the time. I remember the whole day and even the first two days before we actually lost him. It never leaves. This is my life and Marvin impacted my life from the day I was born.”

The play’s cast is equally committed to getting Gaye’s story straight – and paying tribute to him along the way.

“It was very spiritual,” says Leah Grant who plays Tammie Terrell, the Motown singer known for her duets with Gaye, such as Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. “It’s like his spirit was right there with us.” 


“We had to listen to lots of music to really be able to feel what he felt. It was awakening for me,” says Tony Grant, who plays “young” Marvin. “The realness of the play is almost as if Marvin is still there in the room,” promises Clifton Powell who directs the cast and plays Marvin’s father.

The incomparable Lynn Whitfield plays Gaye’s mother, the only person who was there when her son was shot and whose journals the play is partially based on. For Whitfield, there is more to the play than a peek into the life and death of a great American singer.

“This for me is so important if we can learn anything about family dysfunction. If we can look for signs, the play can serve humanity that way,” Whitfield says. “That you can be entertained and see how to nurture a gifted child, but also how things can become stifled, family dynamics and things you can catch early. … All families have secrets and hard times. And to put it out there, to say that Marvin Gaye had hard times, helps people to know that I am not out here by myself. We’ve put this play out here in a way that will help people get better.”

Runs through Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Fisher Theatre. Matinee at 3 p.m. Evening at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.

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