Rome native Quiana Onrae’l Knaombi Javon Holmes is living her dream as part of the cast of Broadway’s “Motown the Musical.”
“It’s so amazing to be able to portray legends that are still alive today,” Holmes said. “Besides that, I get to dance a lot in the show. I am Rick James’ dancer towards the end of the show and that choreography is super fun to do. On top of my ensemble work, I am blessed to be understudying Diana Ross! It is a dream come true.”
In the beginning, Holmes, 22, portrayed young Berry Gordy’s mother, “Mother Gordy.” Currently for most of the show, she’s Mary Wilson of the Supremes.
“Motown the Musical” is the true story of Motown founder Berry Gordy. Gordy launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Smokey Robinson to name a few. The musical features a huge ensemble cast performing over 60 hit songs from the legendary Motown catalogue including “My Girl,” “Ain’t No Mountain,” What’s Going On,” and “Who’s Loving You.”
“A week or two after I graduated Berklee College of Music this past May, my fantastic manager started sending me to NYC for auditions. I was auditioning every week and sending in videos for different types of musical work,” she said.
“’Motown: the Musical’ was my second audition after I graduated. I kept getting called back and I made it to the final round. I got a call that I booked the show and instantly started making plans to move out to NYC for rehearsals.”
The musical is currently on tour around the country. Holmes will be in Pittsburgh over Thanksgiving, then the group heads west stopping in Springfield, Ill., South Bend, Ind., and Wichita, Kan,. before spending over a month traveling around California. The tour swings back north in May 2018.
“It feels a bit weird that I won’t be home for the holidays, but my family and friends support me throughout the year and I am and feel loved even though I am far away. It’s beautiful to know that my Motown family is there to help me when times get tough,” she said.
“During the holidays, we will be performing in California. It will be my first time to ever travel there. That is a present in itself — to be performing and doing what I love in a place that I’ve never been to before. It is also astonishing to me that Motown might be a gift to many people this upcoming holiday season.”
When asked what her most memorable moment has been thus far, Holmes said “My favorite part of this experience was getting to hear the story of Motown through Berry Gordy himself. He sat with us in rehearsal and explained things we had questions about. Every time he spoke you could see him re-live every moment. It was so amazing to hear the story from the man who built and nurtured Motown.”
She noted that the show aims to spread a message of unity and love, “a message that everyone needs today.”
“Our world is going through so much heartache and inequality, and many of the social issues that were fought during the upbringing of Motown are still being fought today. Motown is the soundtrack of America, and these songs bring people together — White, Black, no matter your color. This show features all of the songs that you know and love.”
The 2013 Rome Free Academy graduate spent her high school days singing and performing in the Treble Choir and Rhapsody cabaret. Holmes got a taste of the stage when she appeared in an ensemble role in the Summerstage production of “Hairspray” in 2012. The following summer she landed one of the starring roles as Mimi in “Rent” at the Capitol Theatre.
In 2015, Holmes performed with the Fiddlehead Theatre Company as Dorothy in “The Wiz” at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, Mass. She took a semester off from college in the spring of 2016 to tour with Dancing in the Streets.
Holmes said she plans to perform as long as she is able to.
“I want to travel with different musicals and soon break into television. This is my time to soak it all in,” Holmes said, adding, looking further down the road, she would like to teach someday.
“I want to use my professional knowledge and experience to help my students progress in their careers — just like my teachers helped me get to where I am today.”
Holmes is passionate about what she’s doing, and knows it’s not an easy thing to achieve. Her advice for the next generation of performance hopefuls?
“Never give up. You’re going to hear no after no after no, but just know that everything happens for a reason,” she said. “You can never learn too much. Keep updated with all of the new trends in music. The music industry changes more rapid than other industries. Lastly, know what you bring to the table. It is easy to compare yourself to others in the music business, but find that special quality that only you have and own it.”
On the net: www.motownthemusical.com