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“I don’t know a person that doesn’t love Motown music,” Johnson said.

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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 - ©2014 JOAN MARCUS
  • ©2014 Joan Marcus
  • 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

As the daughter of a musician, Amber Johnson grew up in a house full of music. Whether it was country or old-school R&B, the Norman native was raised with melodies and songs.

Despite that, after graduating from Norman High School in 1998 and attending the University of Oklahoma, Johnson found herself developing an interest in working behind the scenes of musicals instead of singing onstage.

The Motown sound made an impact on Johnson growing up. Founded in Detroit in 1958, it was described as “the soundtrack of a generation.” Johnson can attest to that, as everyone from The Temptations to The Supremes has reserved a place in her memories.

As an adult, Johnson finds herself working on Motown’s reincarnation as an assistant stage manager for Broadway’s Motown the Musical.

“For me, Motown has such a great history and growing up in a household where music was very important, to be part of something that is continuing the legacy of Motown music, bringing people together with the music is important and a great thing to be part of,” Johnson said.

Motown the Musical opens March 7 at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Ave., and runs through March 12.

It’s based on founder Berry Gordy’s autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown and the story of how Gordy transformed a small label to the biggest hitmaking machine of the 1960s. The label featured Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, The Isley Brothers, Diana Ross, Boyz II Men, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson.

David Kaverman, who portrays Robinson, said the production hits all the right notes.

“For me, it has really been life-changing. It came at the right time to spread this message of love and family and unity among people and the importance of music,” he said. “We just had a brunch at Mr. Gordy’s house. It was just really humbling and eye-opening to see the kind of history he’s had through the pictures on his wall and everything. Now, we’re part of that Motown family and all these great legends, iconic people, movement makers, inspirers. So for me, it’s one of the high points of my life so far.”

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 - ©2014 JOAN MARCUS
  • ©2014 Joan Marcus
  • 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

Motown soul

The current Motown the Musical tour is the second one since the show opened on Broadway in 2013. But this is Kaverman’s first run as a castmember.

He originally auditioned as an ensemble player. After several callbacks, he faced the chance of a lifetime.

“They kept calling me back for more things, different things. I ended up in the final round auditioning for Smokey,” Kaverman said. “We had our opening in LA, and Smokey Robinson came and saw the show and I got to meet him. … He gave me some really nice words and was really supportive of the work I’m doing trying to capture him on stage.”

In researching his character, Kaverman said he learned about the importance of Motown and that Robinson was more than a performer.

“Smokey was really kind of the heart and soul of Motown,” Kaverman said. “He was a prolific songwriter. Wrote a lot of music for Motown, for other groups, which I really didn’t know before. He was also a leader. He rose to be vice president of the company, so he understood the business side as well as the creative side. In the show, we have a couple of tense scenes in which Smokey is taking charge.”

Motown the Musical - JULIUS THOMAS III (Berry Gordy) - ALLISON SEMMES (Diana Ross) - JESSE NAGER - SMOKEY ROBINSON
  • Smokey Robinson
  • Motown the Musical JULIUS THOMAS III (Berry Gordy) ALLISON SEMMES (Diana Ross) JESSE NAGER

Along with Kaverman, Motown the Musical stars Chester Gregory as Gordy, Allison Semmes as Ross and Jarran Muse as Gaye. CJ Wright and Raymond Davis Jr. portray Jackson and Wonder as young boys.

While the behind-the-scenes stories on the uphill battles Motown endured shape the show, the music gives it its soul. Motown the Musical features more than 40 hit songs, including “My Girl,” “What’s Going On,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

“I don’t know a person that doesn’t love Motown music,” Johnson said. “You have to come see this show whether it’s for bringing back the memories because this is the music you grew up with or because you’re young and you don’t quite know what Motown is. But everyone should come see this show because everyone is going to love the music.”

Kaverman described a part in the show in which Diana Ross asks everyone in the auditorium to hold hands as they all sing together. He said he feels the energy coming from the room. He wants as many people as possible to feel that same energy.

“I would say come to the show because the music is fantastic,” Kaverman said. “And there are such good stories. There is something there to latch onto that is real. It’s touching and inspiring. I think people go to theaters to have a good time, but also to feel things. But I think people will be surprised with how much heart this show has.”

Tickets are $34-$94. Visit okcbroadway.com or call 405-297-2264.

(Christopher Street / Oklahoma Gazette)

(Christopher Street / Oklahoma Gazette)

Print headline: Motown moves, OKC Broadway presents Motown the Musical at Civic Center Music Hall.

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