Chicago Native Allison Semmes is the embodiment of grace and glamor. Her stage presence and natural appeal is reminiscent of the class and demeanor that exuded from iconic songstresses like Lena Horne, Josephine Baker and Diana Ross.
To see the ingenue bring the latter — Diana Ross — to life night after night in the hit Broadway play – Motown the Musical is much like watching the real thing come alive right before your eyes. From the moment Semmes steps on stage, she becomes is one of the greatest female acts of our time—Diana Ross. Allison’s exuberant energy leaves audiences mesmerized by her impressive portrayal of legendary icon Diana Ross.
Prior to her securing to the lead role in the national tour of Motown ‘The Musical, Allison also had the honor of playing in The Color Purple, Dream Girls, Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz, and Candide.
Michigan Chronicle staff spoke with Semmes just before the opening night of the hit musical at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit.
What was your journey to Broadway?
I grew up listening to different types of music in my household, including Motown, jazz and the blues. I also sang in my church choir and the Chicago Children’s Choi r… I studied opera as an under grad, and when I graduated I realized my dream was to be on Broadway. Everything in my spirit was pulling me towards Broadway like a moth to flame, a burning passion. I moved to New York and got accepted into New York University and went from there.
What does it mean for you to perform in the birthplace of Motown?
I’m so excited! To be in the city where it all began, where all of that talent was discovered is amazing, and sharing in the legacy that is Motown is an honor. I know it will be well received because it’s kind of like a homecoming.
How did you prepare for the role of Diana Ross?
Well, I call it Youtube University. There is so much footage from the 60’s until now. Rare footage too from ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ I also read her biography Secrets of the Sprarrow to get a glimpse of what she was going through mentally and spiritually, and I watched her movies Mahogany and Lady Sings the Blues just to pick up her essence. In rehearsals they didn’t want us to impersonate artist, because there is only one Diana Ross, they wanted us to capture their essence and style.