CHICAGO- Beautiful colors were seen and harmonic melodies were heard as the cast of Motown The Musical sang “Dancing In The Street” Thursday, March 20 at the Chicago Oriental Theatre. Motown The Musical held a news conference about the launch of the musical in Chicago, starting April 22.
Motown the Musical is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of many superstars including Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson.
In attendance was Motown founder Berry Gordy, Tony award-winning producer of the musical Kevin McCollum, director Charles Randolph-Wright, choreographers Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams, and the full cast of the musical led by Allison Semmes (Diana Ross), Clifton Oliver (Berry Gordy), and Jarran Muse (Marvin Gaye).
Randolph-Wright said that directing the musical has been life changing. “I grew up in South Carolina at a time of segregation and Motown was everything,” he said. “I watched The Jacksons on television and said this is what I want to do. Then I became obsessed with the man behind them. It’s extraordinary what Mr. Gordy did. So to be able to not only thank but work with the person who inspired you is simply amazing.”
The musical features more than 50 Motown classic hits such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “My Girl.” Audiences of the traveling tour across the country will see the real story behind the hits of Berry Gordy, the entire Motown family, and see how they fought against the odds to create the soundtrack of change in America.
Chicago native Allison Semmes has the role of Diana Ross and said that landing the role has been a dream come true.
“This is such an honor, I still can’t believe it,” Semmes said excitedly. “Our director doesn’t want us to emulate or impersonate these characters but more so capture their spirit and essence. I hope to bring to the stage the truth of who this iconic character is and her journey.”
Just like back in the day when Motown would go on its tours, their first stop as usual was always in Chicago. It’s only right that the Musical tour does the same thing. Motown the Musical will play at the Oriental theatre April 22- July 13.
Chicago’s very own WVON played a huge part in the success of Motown artists and founder Berry Gordy feels the same.
“WVON had a phenomenal impact that was just incredible,” Gordy said. “If it hadn’t have been for WVON, I just don’t know where Motown would be. There impact is incalculable because anything I did, they were on it. There were my friends, I love them, and all of them were phenomenal. WVON is also in the play so when you come see it, you’ll understand they’re family.”
Clifton Oliver, who plays Gordy in the musical, said that it’s simply amazing to work with a living legend.
“To listen to the stories through his words and hear them from his mouth has been awesome. I’m portraying an icon and I want to portray him the best way I can. We want to do a very grounded and exact version of Mr. Gordy’s story. We’re a traveling tour just like Motown back in the day, so be prepared to be blown away because the singing is fantastic.”
One of Motown’s biggest standout stars was Marvin Gaye, and Jarran Muse said that when he sings, he hopes to take people back to a time they remember.
“It’s such an honor to be playing Mr. Gaye,” Muse said, while smiling. “I’ve been working on my voice and hopefully have it down prior to opening. So when I sing, I want them to remember exactly where they were when they heard it. I want to bring Mr. Gaye back to life every night.”
Tickets are now on sale at all Broadway In Chicago box offices, the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line (800-775-2000), all Ticketmaster retail locations, and online at www.broadwayinchicago.com. Tickets are also available for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales (312-977-1710).
For more information on Motown the Musical, visit www.motownthemusical.com.