Allison Semmes Captures The Pure Essence of Diana Ross
For more than 50 years, Diana Ross, the iconic singer/recording artist/actress, has electrified national and international fans and audiences with her legendary sweet and angelic vocals. For the last 17 months – and counting – singer/actress Allison Semmes has captured the “pure essence” of Ross in the national, now international, touring stage production, “Motown The Musical.”
Simply, put…city after city, theater after theater, night after night, show after show, Semmes sings, talks, and, with astounding believability, is Diana Ross…”The Boss,” much to the delight of audiences of all ages. “Motown The Musical,” starring Semmes, is currently playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, now until Sunday, Nov. 1. The stage production musically and artistically chronicles the epic rise of Motown Records from its humble 1959 beginnings in Detroit to become the world’s most storied record label.
The musical comes to life with captivating portrayals of the legendary singers and musicians that helped put Motown on the map, all told through the vision of the master architect, Berry Gordy, Jr. Semmes’ performance renders an incredible look at Ross and The Supremes, her contributions to the elevation of Motown Records, and the professional and personal relationships that she had with Gordy.
“I really love the Motown story, and I really love the opportunity that I’ve been given by Mr. Berry Gordy to travel the country, and now come to Toronto, to help tell this very important story.
Interestingly, Semmes wasn’t even close to being born when Ross began her climb to the stars with The Supremes. Yet Semmes has made a quantum leap back through time to become Diana Ross on stage. “I did a lot of research when I was preparing for the role, and even now, I will go back and listen to her songs or flip through her autobiography or study her on YouTube,” said Semmes. “I just want to keep remembering who she was, and still is, as an artist and as a person. I don’t want to necessarily imitate her, but I want to capture the essence of her unique style and sweet and distinct voice.”
Reflecting on the entire cast, “We are like family,” said Semmes, with a tone of pride. “I love working with so many extremely talented actresses, actors, and singers. It’s definitely not just a one of two person show; it’s an ensemble that brilliantly portrays the many stories and artists that made Motown what it is. We are all loving that audiences are loving ‘Motown The Musical.’”
Prior to joining “Motown the Musical, Semmes enjoyed success in regional theater productions in the United States, including “Bubbling Brown Sugar,” “Dreamgirls,” and “The Wiz.” Her first tour was “The Color Purple,” and her first show on Broadway was “The Book of Mormon.”
Vocally and musically speaking, Semmes stands on a strong foundation. As a youth growing up in Chicago, she began cultivating her vocal chops while singing in her church’s choir and other community and city-wide musical ensembles. Her parents exposed her to a steady diet of R&B, blues, jazz, and Motown music from their special collection of albums.
After high school, Semmes earned a bachelor’s degree in music/classical voice from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Opera Program, and subsequently received a master’s in music and musical theatre from New York University- Steinhardt. “I wanted to be an opera singer. I wanted to be the next Kathleen Battle,” Semmes said with a laugh. “The color to her voice is so expressive and so graceful.”
These days, Semmes is coloring the voice and style of Diana Ross. She and the entire touring cast have received rave reviews over the last 17 months for their singing and dancing and telling the Motown story at every performance. Yet, Semmes believes that…“the show is much bigger than just the singing and dancing that everybody loves; it’s a celebration that transformed America,” said Semmes.
She concludes, “I really love the Motown story, and I really love the opportunity that I’ve been given by Mr. Berry Gordy to travel the country, and now come to Toronto, to help tell this very important story. When we perform each night, we are culturally adding global consciousness to the audience. We are reaching people of all ages, and I believe that we, through ‘Motown The Musical,’ are changing lives.”
For information about buying tickets for “Motown The Musical” at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, log on to www.ticketking.com or phone 416.872.1212.