Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby. But "Dancin' in the Street!," the musical revue at Ford's, comes pretty close to it.
An all-black cast of eight floats down memory lane on the Motor City soundwave of the '60s -- from the Supremes, the Shirelles and Martha and the Vandellas to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson.
There isn't any plot, but for many in the audience, memory supplied the missing story line. There isn't any dialogue, but there's the meaning that faces and gestures give -- to a desperate plea of "Please, Mr. Postman" or the macho machinations of "Get Ready."
The performers know all the moves: They can mash potatoes, they can do the twist. Sing, too. Solos are parceled out democratically, but one stands out: Darcel Spear, a high-school senior who appeared in the original Boston production, sings a version of "My Cherie Amour" that's pure ballad. While many of the songs in this revue are faithful covers of the originals, this one is different. Stevie Wonder sang it carefree, but Spear does it wistfully, the yearnings of a teenage girl.
Though individual characters try to emerge in the first half of the show, they really don't succeed. A couple lasts for only one song -- pretty much as it was in high school. In the second half, which approaches a nightclub act, the singers' identities are completely immersed and blended.
A six-piece band, dressed as Jimi Hendrix clones in the first half, now appears in tuxedos. (The guitarist, Keith Robinson, is a man to watch for some riffs that weren't invented 20 years ago.)
As for the singers, the men have traded their hanging-out clothes for purple tuxedos, orange bow ties and socks; the women grow up, from girlishness in short dresses to pseudo-sophistication in orange rhinestoned gowns slit up the side. They take their places at eight microphones, where, in fluid group movements, acting out "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," they're the Four Tops, the Temptations.
For a lot of the audience, who clapped in time, sang along and knew all the words or simply said "Yeaaah" at the end of a song, it was the fluff dreams were made of. DANCIN' IN THE STREET! At Ford's Theater through May 29.