‘Motown the Musical’ brings to life the story of Detroit’s music dynasty

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‘Motown the Musical’ brings to life the story of Detroit’s music dynasty

Posted on: May 2nd, 2014 by tommyj

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Motown Musical CLIFTON OLIVER (Berry Gordy) CliftOliver is honored be part Motown family. Broadway: The LiKing (Simba) In The Heights (Benny opposite

Motown the Musical CLIFTON OLIVER (Berry Gordy) Clifton Oliver is honored to be a part of the Motown family. Broadway: The Lion King (Simba), In The Heights (Benny opposite Jordin Sparks), Wicked (Fiyero). Nat’l Tours: The Lion King (Simba), Rent (Benny & Collins), Ragtime (Ensemble). Regional: Pal Joey (Arkansas Rep.), Kinky Boots (Lola’s standby for Bill Porter), West Coast Tour of The Scottsboro Boys (Charlie/Victoria), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Victor), Godspell (Judas) MUNY. Television: "Law and READ MORE ? ALLISON SEMES (Diana Ross) Chicago native. B.M. Opera at UIUC, M.M. from NYU-Steinhardt. Broadway credits: Motown the Musical, Florence Ballard & The Book of Mormon, Nabalungi U/S, Swing. Other credits include: The Color Purple National Tour, Dreamgirls, Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz, Candide. I want to thank you Bethany and everyone at Telsey, Renee, my CCC/ KACC/ GIAME families, Momma & Poppa Bear, Emile, QVD, and my friends for the unconditional love and support! READ MORE ? NICHOLAS CHRISTOPHER (Smokey Robinson) Born in Bermuda and raised in Boston, MA. Studied at both The Boston Conservatory and The Juilliard School. 1st National Tour: In The Heights. Off-Broadway: Rent, Hurt Village. Thank you family, friends and SMS for your lurve and support. JARRAN MUSE (Marvin Gaye) A native Jersey boy couldn’t be happier living his dream. God is good yall. Broadway/NYC: Motown The Musical, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Dreamgirls; International Tours: American Idiot, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, 42nd Street. Regional Theater: Marriott Lincolnshire, Portland Center Stage (Will Parker in Oklahoma!), Goodspeed, Fulton Opera Houses, Pittsburgh CLO. Thank you to Mr. GORDY, Charles, and Telsey for this new opportunity to bring Marvin to stage READ MORE ? ERICK BUCKLEY (Ensemble) Broadway/National Tours: Valjean in Les Miserables, Uncle Fester in The Addams Family, Dave in The Full Monty, Piangi in The Phantom of the Opera, Gangster #1 Kiss Me, Kate, Roger in Grease. Favorite roles; Husband to Robin, Dad to Miranda. PATRICE COVINGTON (Ensemble) The Book of Mormon, Dreamgirls (Effie), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Armelia). Find her self-titled original album & the Grammy nominated Ain’t Misbehavin on iTunes. Numerous National Voiceovers. Instagram: @Sangtrice. “Don’t be a star…be a galaxy!” JAMARICE DAUGHTRY (Ensemble) From Bartow, Florida, Bethune Cookman Univesity Alum. Member of the Stellar Award Winning Group “Group Therapy.” Winner of the “Grady Rayam Prize in Negro Spirituals.” Thank you to my mom Sharon for always supporting me! ASHLEY TAMAR DAVIS (Ensemble) Tours: Prince. Theatre: Perry Productions. TV: "SNL," "BRIT Awards." Grammy-nominated; co-wrote "Beautiful, Loved, and Blessed." Graduate of USC School of Music. Thanks to God, family, friends! www.tamardavis.com. LYNORRIS EVANS (Ensemble) Lynorris is thrilled to join the National Tour of Motown the Musical. Broadway: Leap of Faith. Tours: Flashdance, Memphis. Cirque Du Soleil: Viva Elvis. BFA: Fordham University. Thanks to my supportive family and friends. MELANIE EVANS (Ensemble) National/International: Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Junie B Jones, Disney’s Believe (original cast). New York Workshop: Amazing Grace. Regional: Sarah/Ragtime, and Nehebka/AIDA. AMDA graduate. Thank you to The Mine and Telsey casting! DEVON GOFFMAN (Swing) Hometown: BUFFALO, NY! Tours: Jersey Boys, Grease (w/ Frankie Avalon), Titanic, Buddy. Film: Michael & Javier. Thank you Bethany, everyone at Telsey & Judy Boals. Love to my family! In loving memory of Jack Greenan. JENNIE HARNEY (Swing) Brooklyn Baby! Broadway: Broadway Rising Stars (featured). National: We The People (Dawn). Regional: Dreamgirls (Deena), Thunder Knocking On the Door (Glory), Beehive (Jasmine), Pearl (Pearl Bailey) AUDELCO Nominee. Thanks to God, Mom & Dad! LATRISA A. HARPER (Swing) Fort Pierce, Fl. Ailey II. Broadway: The Color Purple, The Lion King. Broadway workshop: Beehive with Debbie Allen. A.R.T: Witness Uganda. Love to family and Susan Batson Studios. ROD HARRELSON (Swing) Excited to be a part of the Motown Tour! Originally from Greensboro, NC, began dancing at UNC-Chapel Hill. Love and thanks to God and family. This one’s for Cynthia. ROBERT HARTWELL (Ensemble) Proud magna cum laude University of Michigan. Broadway: Memphis (Wailin’ Joe), Nice Work (Astaire Award nominee), Cinderella. Tours: Dreamgirls. Host and Interior Designer of web series "Broadway Quick Change". Jeremiah 29:11. As always, for Nana. RODNEY EARL JACKSON, JR. (Ensemble) So honored to be part of a theatrical experience surrounded by love. Broadway/Tour(s): Book of Mormon. Born/raised in the heart of San Francisco where he founded the Bay Area Theatre Company (BATCo). CMU Drama BFA. TRISHA JEFFREY (Ensemble) 2013 Broadway World Chicago Best Actress for “Celie” in The Color Purple! Broadway: Little Shop Of Horrors; All Shook Up; Rent. Tour: Sister Act; Rent. Full bio: http://trishajeffrey.com. @trishajeffrey. Love & gratitude. GRASAN KINGSBERRY (Ensemble) A Juilliard alumnus, Grasan joins this company directly from the Broadway production of Motown. Broadway: Nice Work…, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Color Purple, Aida. Tour: Dreamgirls (u/s Curtis). Film/TV: I Am Legend, “Smash,” “All My Children.” www.grasan-kingsberry.com. ELIJAH AHMAD LEWIS (Ensemble) Off-Broadway: Mama I Want To Sing (Minister Of Music), Sing Harlem Sing, We Are. Regional: Once On This Island (Papa Ge), Guys and Dolls (Nathan Detroit). Film: Mama I Want To Sing, America (Rosie O’Donnell). Would like to thank my family and all who have helped along the way. www.elijahahmadlewis.com. JARVIS B. MANNING JR. (Ensemble) Houston, TX native. This is his first Equity production and he feels honored and blessed that it’s with Motown! This performance is dedicated to his AMAZING family, especially his Aunt Barbs! THANK YOU GOD! KRISHA MARCANO (Ensemble) Broadway: Motown on Broadway; The Color Purple (Squeak, Original Cast); Sweet Charity; Aida; Fosse (1st Nat Tour). Concert Dance: Martha Graham Dance Co.; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Krisha is a proud member of AEA. MARQ MOSS (Ensemble) Background Vocalist: Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Carole King, Anita Baker, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross. Graduate of Clark Atlanta University. B’way Tour: The Lion King (u/s Simba). Thanks God, family and friends. Hey, Mom!! www.marqkmoss.com. RASHAD NAYLOR (Ensemble) Broadway: Hairspray (Thad, Seaweed U/S, Original Cast Album), Jersey Boys (Barry Belson). Off-Broadway: RENT (Benny), Tours: Rock of Ages, The Book of Mormon. Regional: The Rat Pack (Sammy Davis Jr.), The Wiz (Scarecrow). CHADAÉ NICHOL (Ensemble) Chicagoland Native, Ball State grad, Chadaé is overjoyed to embark on this historic Motown Tour! Regional: Showboat, Oklahoma, Cabaret, Little Shop. Thanks to God, And my support system! Brittyn you are my star. Matt 5:14. @ChadaeNichol. LEON OUTLAW JR. (Young Berry/Stevie/Michael Jackson) At a very young age Leon began to sing and dance to the amazement of his parents. Inspired by Michael Jackson and James Brown, Leon made his stage debut at age 9. Ecstatic about being a part of Motown and Thanks God, family & Friends. Facebook, Leon-C-Outlaw-Jr; Twitter, @leoncoutlawjr; Instagram, LJOutlaw312. RAMONE OWENS (Ensemble) A Los Angeles native, Ramone is beyond thrilled to be a part of Motown. Regional: Disney’s Aladdin, Dreamgirls, Man of La Mancha. BFA, Boston Conservatory. Thanks to God, Mom, Dad and my "we knows". Hab: 2:3. NIC ROWE (Swing) Nic is thrilled to be joining Motown! Last seen in the world-premiere Duncan Sheik musical, Because of Winn Dixie. Love to my family and friends, boys & girl at Henderson/Hogan Agency. A graduate of The Boston Conservatory. JAMISON SCOTT (Ensemble) Broadway: Spider-Man, Memphis, Grease. Tour/Regional: Grease, Hairspray, We Will Rock You, Saturday Night Fever, Altar Boyz. Recordings: Hairspray movie, Killer Queen- A Tribute to Queen, Grease 2007 Cast Album. To God be the glory! ILYHMS. @JamisonScottR. REED LORENZO SHANNON (Young Berry/Stevie/Michael Jackson) Reed was trained at NC Theatre Conservatory. He has performed roles in NCTC productions of Who’s Tommy, In the Heights and on the main stage in Oliver!. Reed received rave reviews while in the cast of “Les Misérable” (2014 – Gavroche) with NCT and Broadway Series South. www.reedshannon.com. DOUGLAS STORM (Ensemble) Broadway: Les Miserables, Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Dance of the Vampires, Chess in Concert; Off-Broadway: Bat Boy (original cast); Other: Disney’s Tarzan, Because of Winn Dixie, Heathers; 20yr member of Actors Equity Association. MARTINA SYKES (Ensemble) Native of St. Petersburg, FL and graduate of the University of Florida. Favorite credits (Regional): Raindogs, Rent, Hairspray. "I would like to thank GOD, my family and friends for their unconditional love and support). Ephesians 3:20. CHRISTIAN DANTE WHITE (Ensemble) Scottsboro Boys: Broadway/London. NY/Tours: Book of Mormon, Hairspray, The Wiz, Lost In the Stars, Cotton Club Parade, Jersey Boys. TV: NBC pilot "Man’s World," "Tonys Awards." Mom, Boo, Tosh, Kerrs, Sheehans, Headline, SBI, memory of UNC BROTHER. GALEN J. WILLIAMS (Swing) Galen is is THRILLED to be on his very first tour with Motown. Favorite past credits: Black Nativity, Passing Strange, Three Little Birds, 2-2 Tango, BDF Circle of Dreams. BFA, Howard University.

Once upon a time, in a city named Detroit, a remarkable confluence of musical talent came together under the leadership of a wizard by the name of Berry Gordy Jr. And over the course of the tumultuous, society-altering decade of the 1960s, the universally embraced sound that came to be know as Motown was created.

A fairy tale? Depends on who is telling the story. With the arrival of “Motown The Musical,” the Broadway hit that is kicking off its first national tour at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, the narrative comes courtesy of Gordy himself. Rooted in his 1994 memoir, “To Be Loved,” it is meant to be a corrective to “Dreamgirls,” the 1981 Broadway hit that spun a fictional version of the era. But mostly the show is a celebration of the artists he helped shape and market, and the record company that, at its peak, had more than 100 titles hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, and choreographed by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams, “Motown the Musical” follows Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer and songwriter to the music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and dozens more. It also captures something about the way the Motown sound intersected so crucially with the Civil Rights Movement, and the dream of crossing racial barriers.

Along the way, this massive jukebox show features more than 50 classic hits, as well as three new songs penned by Gordy

There is always a sort of alchemy involved in any great cultural phenomenon, this time the British invasion of the 1960s that coincided with the rhythm-and-blues-based crossover sound of the Motor City. But for Gordy, now 84, a key piece of the method and magic he used at Motown was borrowed from the assembly line at the Ford Motor Company. Gordy, who opened a record store featuring jazz after returning home from the Korean War, briefly took an assembly line job to pay the bills. It was that method of auto construction that he soon realized could also be applied to record production.

“I wanted the same concept for my company — using mass production techniques with artists, songs and records, but not sacrificing artistry,” said Gordy. “Each person on my team had a very specific task. Each song was vetted and ideally engineered. Each artist was groomed and coached.”

The hours were long. The competition was fierce. And Gordy was determined that Motown’s records “had all the polish and slickness and mass appeal of pop music, while holding on to the underlying grit and funkiness of soul music.”

“This is what allowed the records to appeal to black and white audiences,” said Gordy.

“People all over the world truly have ownership of this music,” said Randolph-Wright, who has a long list of stage, film and television credits. “And it’s not just baby boomers. The hip-hop generation has sampled so much of the Motown catalogue that you can draw a straight line from Diana Ross to Beyonce. And many young stars grew up listening to their parents and grandparents play this music. The important thing to remember is that when many of the now iconic artists arrived at Motown they were in their teens, and they went on quite a journey. It wasn’t the sort of instantaneous success you see now on reality TV shows.”

What is most important for Randolph-Wright is that his actors “discover who these artists were, but then go on to evoke, rather than mimic them.

“These are not impersonators, though we are all very aware that audiences want to see the iconic stars whose moves and even lighting cues they know inside-out,” said the director.

Playing Diana Ross is Allison Semmes, who grew up in Hyde Park, spent years as part of the Chicago Children’s Choir, headed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study opera, but eventually realized she wanted to “make the transition to Broadway.” Originally cast on Broadway as Florence Ballard, a founding member of The Supremes, she also understudied the Ross role.

“Initially I was glued to YouTube, listening for the nuances of her voice and watching her growth from a very young woman to ‘the reign of Diana,’ ” said Semmes. “Putting on those heavy beaded gowns also helps. And I watched her movies, trying to get a sense of her acting choices, trying to capture her essence. I also was also lucky enough to be able to ask Berry Gordy about her, and to see there was still a twinkle in his eyes when he talked about her.”

Clifton Oliver, who played Marvin Gaye in the initial “Motown” workshop, may just have the hardest job in “Motown.” He plays Berry Gordy, moving from the age of 25 to about 50.

“Mr. Gordy is still just a child at heart, a genuinely excited guy,” said Oliver. “He is still so eager to learn, and I’ve watched him just dive into the whole world of musical theater, which is quite new to him. At Motown, Mr. Gordy found a muse and cultivated a star with Diana Ross, and with Marvin Gaye he became the father that man never had,. But most important of all, he discovered he had the recipe for creating music for the masses.”

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