Allison Semmes nails it as Diana Ross in the national tour of “Motown the Musical”.
The Broadway star is playing the legendary singer at the oriental theater for a three month run. It’s a thrill for the classically trained singer, because she’s singing her heart out for her hometown audience.
Allison Semmes: “I was in the Motown Broadway production and I was loving it. But I really was missing home. Chicago. I haven’t seen here in a while. It’s always home.”
Semmes is Chicago homegrown through and through. She went to Ray School for elementary, Kenwood for high school and undergrad at the U of I Champaign Urbana. But she started singing her first notes as a member of the city wide, Chicago’s Children’s Choir.
“I started in the Chicago children’s choir at the age of 6 and as I got older we met at the Chicago Cultural Center,” She said. “That’s literally a block away from the oriental theater. So when I would always walk by the oriental theater and say oh what’s playing, what’s on the marquee. One day, I’d love to be there.”
This rising star made her Broadway debut in the tony award winning, Book of Mormon. But never forgot her Chicago roots. The artistic director of the Chicago Children’s Choir remembers the first time she heard Semmes sing as a child.
Josephine Lee, Chicago Children’s Choir Artistic Director: “Allison Semmes was born to be a star. No doubt about it.”
“But I remember Josephine coming and she instilled this passion,” Semmes said. “It’s like I’ve always had a passion for music but something about just her passion for it pulled it out for me.”
Josephine Lee: “For me watching her on stage was like a dream come true.”
As a youngster, Semmes looked up to a lot of singers. One of them Diana Ross, the very woman she now portrays on stage.
Whether it was karma, or pure coincidence, Ross was performing at the Chicago Theater in April, at the exact same, Semmes was on stage at the oriental. Semme’s director was at Ross’s performance and couldn’t believe what was happening.
“When she was singing reach out and touch, he checked over to the oriental theater and i was singing reach out and touch as well at the same time.”
“Insane, it’s insane. It’s like really universe-is this happening? Everything is just like aligning.”
The Chicago Children’s Choir learned that Semmes would be in town at the same time it was holding it’s annual concert in Millennium Park.
They had to ask.
Josephine Lee: “We said that this is our opportunity to have our children experience the power of Allison Semmes.
Allison Semmes: “When I came back I just felt so much love.”
The kids watched in amazement as Semmes belted out “Home” the song Diana Ross sang, from musical, “The Wiz”. Many thinking to themselves, if she can do it, so can I.
“Yes, because I want to become a singer so that I can become her and do a whole bunch of stuff and tell other people that are in the Chicago Children’s Choir how I became a singer.”
“I think she did a great job today. I think i will be a singer too like her.”
What’s it like here performing for the Chicago Children’s Choir, you grew up here? “I mean, I was one of these little girls sitting in the seat singing. So it’s like full circle. I start here then travel then come back and give back. It’s just so fulfilling. So fulfilling to be here.”
Allison Semmes, she’s one of Chicago’s Very Own.