Eleven Year Old Returns From Broadway After Playing Michael Jackson

Sources: Deadline Detroit | All Things Michael

all things michael edit

He’s only 11, and he’s already had a great run performing on Broadway.

Detroit’s own Samuel Pickens, a student at the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences, has returned home after performing nightly as Michael Jackson on Broadway in ‘Motown: The Musical’ since September, WXYZ reports.

The station reports that he rubbed elbows with celebrities and fans. Samuel got some notoriety after the YouTube video of him his classmates went viral. He was the lead singer in that video in which the students sang Pharell’s song “Happy.”

He’s glad to be back home “because I’m with my friends and family,” Samuel tells WXYZ.  “And I get to talk to them again.”

“It was amazing to play somebody who was one of my biggest role models, that was awesome.” said Samuel, “It’s Michael Jackson we’re talking about!”


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Denver Mayor Sings Praises Of Motown: The Musical – See Chance To Win Trip/Tickets

Sources: CBS | All Things Michael

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DENVER (CBS4) – It’s the music that you grew up with, and now it’s a Broadway musical that’s headed to Denver.

“Motown: The Musical” is the story behind some of the biggest musical groups and solo singers of the 1950s and 1960s. It’s the music that shaped a generation and now it’s playing out on stage.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told CBS4 that he and his wife saw the show on Broadway in New York. He called it phenomenal.

“It’s just a moment in time in music that’s defied time … crossed every racial, ethnic and religious boundary ever set in this world,” Hancock said.

When he got to Denver after seeing the musical, Hancock said that he immediately contacted the Denver Center Attractions to get the show here. He said that the deal was already in the works.

“Motown: The Musical” is the story of how Barry Gordy found and promoted some of the biggest musical acts in the United States. The show explores Gordy’s relationships with stars like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. It features more than 40 classic songs, including “What’s Going On,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It through the Grapevine,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “My Girl.”

“‘My Girl’ by the Temptations is my favorite song from Motown. Loved all the music, but ‘My Girl’ resonates because it’s one that’s just crossed every genre, every geographic boundary … every limit in society,” Hancock explained.

He’s pretty clear on his favorite Motown act also.

“Without question, The Temptations. Closely followed by The Jackson 5. We all grew up with the Jackson 5. Certainly, Michael Jackson … the greatest entertainer of all time. But when it comes down to music that lasts forever you’ve got to go with The Temptations,” Hancock said.

What is your favorite Motown song or act? CBS4 in partnership with Denver Center Attractions is looking for Motown’s Biggest Fan. Winners will get tickets to the musical when it comes to Denver, and a grand prize winner will get a trip for two to Boston to see the show from Feb. 9– 11. We want you to put together your best Motown selfie or video and upload it to CBSDenver.com. The deadline for entry is Jan. 30. Winners will be chosen Feb. 2.

“Motown: The Musical” comes to The Buell Theatre March 31 through April 19. Tickets are on sale now.


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MOTOWN THE MUSICAL Ends Broadway Run Today

Sources: Broadway World | All Things Michael


MOTOWN THE MUSICAL, the hit musical featuring the music of the legendary Motown catalogue and a book by Berry Gordy, ends its Broadway run today, January 18 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. MOTOWN is set to return to Broadway at a Nederlander theatre to be announced in July 2016. Last spring, the first National Tour of Motown the Musical opened to critical acclaim, grossing an impressive $20 Million dollars during a packed sixteen-week run, and is now heading to major markets across the US. MOTOWN will also head to London’s West End this summer.

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, Motown the Musical is the real story of the one-of-a-kind sound that hit the airwaves in 1959 and changed our culture forever. This exhilarating show charts Motown Founder Berry Gordy‘s incredible journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more.


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Win A Pairs Of Tickets To Motown The Musical At The Boston Opera House

Sources: The Bay State Banner | All Things Michael

Win a pair of tickets to the January 27th show


It began as one man’s story… became everyone’s music… and is now Broadway’s musical. MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is the true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and many more. Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us all move to the same beat. Now, experience it live on stage in the record-breaking smash hit MOTOWN THE MUSICAL!

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is coming to the Boston Opera House January 27 through February 15. Get tickets at BroadwayInBoston.com or by calling 800-982-278.

Click here to enter contest.



Berry Gordy Talks About Taking Motown To Broadway

Sources: Philly.com – A. D. Amorosi | All Things Michael


When Berry Gordy talks about the legendary record company he started in Detroit back in 1959 (originally Tamla Records, it became the Motown Record Corp. in 1960), he describes an entity transcending music. “My Motown is like a tree,” he says with relish. “We go out on branches in every different direction.”

The sounds and sights of Smokey Robinson’s Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the young Michael Jackson, the Temptations, the Four Tops, and Diana Ross (Gordy’s onetime, longtime paramour) with and without the Supremes made Motown a force of nature in entertainment circles. Since its first hits – many featuring Gordy songwriting credits – the African American label was what it claimed to be: “the sound of young America.” On Tuesday, its offspring, Motown the Musical, begins a two-week engagement at the Academy of Music.

“When I started this, people asked how was I going to Broadway-ize Motown,” says the 85-year-old music mogul, who sold his shares in the label in 1988. “I said instead that I’m going to Motown-ize Broadway.”

A jukebox musical jammed with classic hits, the show is based on Gordy’s growing up in Detroit, then following his professional and personal desires. “The whole thing was a dream-like fairy tale that happened to come true,” he says, a sentiment echoed in a joint phone interview by Nansci Neiman-LeGette, COO of Berry Gordy Productions. “You always have a purpose,” she says, as the pair riff like an old married couple on all things Motown.

Motown the Musical didn’t come to life in 2013 because its writer was a huge fan of musicals. In fact, the only one that ever stuck in his mind was Richard Rodgers’ 1962 No Strings, starring Diahann Carroll. And even that show’s importance to him came down to record labels – Carroll’s then-husband was Monty Kay, an executive to whom the young Gordy had pitched songs.

So it wasn’t love. “I wanted to do Broadway because it was out of my reach,” Gordy says. Then again, with his successful production forays into film (1972’s Billie Holiday biography Lady Sings the Blues) and television (1971’s Diana!), both starring Ross, he figured that conquering theater was an inevitability.

“I always wanted my artists and my music to hit upon every aspect of American life. That’s why we had them do training – glamour training – under Miss Powell, who had a finishing school.” (Maxine Powell, Motown’s director of artist development, died in 2013.) Gordy’s real dream for Motown – the tuxes and beautiful gowns, the charm school, the need for excellence in everything – was to uplift black Americans, to give them something to strive for and be proud of.

The thing is, like the Four Seasons’ Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli’s mega-successful Jersey Boys, Motown the Musical is rooted in truth as well as aspiration. And that reality, though dazzling in scope, wasn’t always sparkling.

Take Gordy’s relationships with some of his biggest artists and collaborators, such as Holland-Dozier-Holland (Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland) and Marvin Gaye.

With Gaye, Gordy fought about the civil-rights message of “What’s Going On,” which he saw as out of step with the crooner’s suave, tailored persona. With Holland-Dozier-Holland, he argued about matters of compensation. With other Motown artists giving him headaches, the self-described “fair-but-firm” Gordy levied fines. “They were so important to me that I couldn’t fire them, so I would fine them,” he says with a laugh.

Then there’s Ross, arguably Motown’s greatest star, with whom the thrice-married Gordy had an affair starting in 1965, and a child, Rhonda, in 1971. Though Gordy considers himself a private person who doesn’t revel in self-reflection, to make Motown the Musical work beyond its bustling sound track of 66 songs, he had to tell the truth.

“I learned that if you don’t tell the truth from the start, your story is not credible. People lose interest.” To do that effectively, he had to include the passion he shared with the lead Supreme. “I’m a reasonably normal person,” he laughs, “and anything that happened to me happens to a lot of men. I had to include the love story of my life. Diana knows that she was the inspiration for everything that I did.”

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According to Gordy, so true did Motown the Musical ring to Ross that when she saw its opening night on Broadway with the relationship between the pair played out on stage, she wept. “On opening night, the artists who left Motown came back,” he says – no one ever really leaves Motown.

Along with fashioning truth into a book for the show, Gordy had to write new songs to knit together elements of the story that his classic hits couldn’t do alone. “I only write when necessary, but I needed glue,” he says. And with that, he’s off and running on a creative trajectory that he once told Billboard magazine would be finished with the start of Motown the Musical.

“I told a lie is what I say now,” he laughs – he’s now working on a cinematic song-and-dance cycle featuring 15-year-old discovery Jadagrace singing about good deeds rather than anger.

“That’s something I love to do . . . be it with Stevie, Marvin, Jadagrace, or Diana: make a better world,” he says.

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BWW Interviews: MOTOWN THE MUSICAL’s Young MJ Leon Outlaw Jr.

Sources: Broadway World | All Things Michael


Ever wonder what the young actors who play roles in Broadway tours think? Well, Mr. Leon Outlaw Jr. is here to tell you a little about himself in the way only a kid can — straightforward and to the point. At the ripe old age of 12, theatre “vet” Outlaw plays Young Berry Gordy, Young Stevie Wonder and Young Michael Jackson in MOTOWN THE MUSICAL, playing Dec. 16 – 28 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. 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.

Tell our readers about your role in MOTOWN THE MUSICAL and what it’s like to play the younger versions of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Berry Gordy.

It is truly an honor playing the roles of these icons. I’m only 12 years old and I get to play my idol Michael Jackson and two living legends. Whenever my act is over I wish there was more for me to do.

Is it more challenging to play an iconic legend? Do you feel more pressure to do them justice on stage?

Yes. Before every show I pray and I say, “Ok MJ, let’s do this!” After the show when fans tell me, “You sound just like Michael Jackson. You made me cry; He would be proud of you.” Then I feel very happy.

What’s your favorite moment and/or song in the show?

I have two; Battle of the stars and when I come out for the Jackson 5 audition. Once the crowd starts to applaud I get pumped up.

What is something that fans who attend the show at Minneapolis’ Orpheum Theatre should watch for that is an “insider’s secret” about the production?

There is a lot going on behind the scenes and a lot of jokes. When I do Lil Stevie Wonder my eyes are really closed under the glasses.

What do you like to tell people that is unique about MOTOWN THE MUSICAL?

What’s unique about Motown is you will be dancing in your seats and you will learn something before you leave; likeMarvin Gaye was Berry Gordy‘s brother in-law.

What’s next for your career? And, what is your dream role that you hope to play in the future?

I’m not sure what God has in store for me but I would love to continue in theater, TV shows, movies and more. I would like to play Berry Gordy/Marvin Gaye.

More information

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is the true American dream story of Motown founderBerry Gordy‘s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and so many more.

Featuring more than 40 classic hits such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” MOTOWN THE MUSICAL tells the story behind the hits as Diana, Smokey, Berry and the whole Motown family fight against the odds to create the soundtrack of change in America. Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made us all move to the same beat.

Showtimes are Dec. 22-28: Monday at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. (no evening performance). There are no performances on Wednesday, Dec. 24 or Thursday, Dec. 25 due to the Christmas holiday. Tickets may be purchased in person (no service fees) at the State Theatre Box Office, online at HennepinTheatreTrust.org, by calling 1.800.982.2787 or visiting a Ticketmaster Center.

For more information about MOTOWN THE MUSICAL, please visit www.MotownTheMusical.com.

For more information about tickets to the Broadway on Hennepin Season, please visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org.


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11 Questions With ‘Motown The Musical’s’ Youngest Star

Sources: Kare11 – By Sara Pelissero| All Things Michael

Meet "The Michaels" Leon Outlaw Jr. (left), Reed L. Shannon (right)

Meet “The Michaels” Leon Outlaw Jr. (left), Reed L. Shannon (right)

MINNEAPOLIS – A new musical opens in Minneapolis next week that will take the audience back through some of the greatest hits to ever top the music charts. “Motown the Musical” is the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from a boxer to a legendary music mogul, who helped launch the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and more.

On Tuesday, the show opens at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. But before the stage is lit, we had a chance to chat with one of the production’s youngest stars.

Reed LoRenzo Shannon was trained at NC Theatre Conservatory and has performed in shows like, “In the Heights,” “Oliver!” and recently received rave reviews as Gavroche in “Les Miserable.”

In “Motown the Musical,” Shannon plays young versions of Michael Jackson, Berry Gordy and Stevie Wonder.

Here’s 11 questions with Reed.


1. What is your name? What grade are you in?

Reed LoRenzo Shannon, 8th grade

2. What do you like about the audiences?

Meeting so many new people after shows and putting smiles on people’s faces when I am performing.

3. How do you prepare for your role as Young Berry/Stevie/Michael each night?

Before each performance, I sit and think about everything going on in the world, so when I get on stage I am focused, and I get my rest and eat right.

4. How familiar were you with the Motown hits performed in this show before being cast?

I knew all the songs before I came into the cast, because my parents played Motown songs 24/7!

5. What’s your favorite song in the show to perform?

“I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5

6. What was the last song you downloaded or listened to?

Bo$$ by Fifth Harmony

7. How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?

I was 4 years old when I knew I wanted to perform.

8. You have a number of talents that are showcased in this production. Do you have any hidden talents?

Instagramming, being a comedian, a photographer, and a soon to be YouTuber (making YouTube videos).

9. Have you been to Minnesota before?

No, it will be my first time when Motown comes to town!

10. Are you ready for the cold?

Absolutely not, I am a Tar Heel and from the South, where the sky is blue all the time!

11. If you had to give just one reason why people in Minneapolis should come see this show, what would you say?

Motown shares the history of our lives in America, and everybody is smiling when they leave the show.

“Motown the Musical” runs from Dec. 16 to Dec. 28 at Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Tickets ($49-$134) are on sale now. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.


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On The Shoulders Of Motown

Sources: The St. Louis American – By Kenya Vaughn | All Things Michael

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“It’s nerve-wrecking, yet honoring,” said Elijah Lewis. “It’s a heavy load to carry, but I feel blessed to be able to share my gift in honoring him as an artist.”

For eight shows a week, Lewis portrays Stevie Wonder in “Motown The Musical.”

The show landed in St. Louis last week and continues at the Fox Theatre through November 30.

Lewis is part of a company charged with the task of capturing the essence of the timeless, iconic music that Berry Gordy used to change the landscape of American popular music more than a half-century ago.

“We played those records every Saturday when we were cleaning up – especially The Temptations because my dad loved them,” said Martina Sykes. She graces the stage as Mary Wells – one of Motown’s earliest stars. “I would love to hear the Jackson 5,” she said, “because we knew when they came on that we were close to being finished.”

Spinning Motown LPs was the standard programming for many Saturday morning chore sessions in households across the nation – and probably the world.

But at the height of its popularity, what would come to be known as “The Motown sound” – and the stars responsible for it – played a pivotal role in permanently dismantling the “race music” status quo.

“I think this musical gives insight on how Motown changed music,” Lewis said. “The music of Motown was not only the soundtrack to many people’s lives, but also the soundtrack for this nation.”

More than five dozen selections accompany the history of the record label that produced some of biggest stars in music history – including Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Wonder – as “Motown The Musical” relives the journey through the eyes of its founder.

“He had this thing called ‘beat the teacher,’ so everybody had to one-up Mr. Gordy – which ultimately made everyone who they are,” Lewis said. “In this musical you get to really see the love, trust and friendship that they had with each other and how they used that to build something that’s still so iconic today.”

As producer of the original Broadway run and the tour and as writer of the book for the musical, Gordy had his hands in “Motown The Musical” as much as he did the label that inspired it.

“The first few weeks of rehearsal Mr. Gordy flew in and said, ‘I want you guys to know that you are a part of the Motown legacy. You are part of Motown’s history. This is not just another play,’” Sykes said.

“He said, ‘We want to do the same thing with this musical as we did with ‘The Motor City Review’ when we went to these cities and performed.’”

Then, she knew “this is not your average Broadway tour,” she said. “That feeling alone is something I can’t even describe with words. You really feel the weight of what you’re doing.”

Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Edwin Starr Jr. Walker and The All-Stars, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Wells, Martha and The Vandellas, The Marvelettes, Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Jackson 5, Rick James, Teena Marie and Jackie Wilson (via Gordy’s early days as a songwriter) are among those given their respective moments in the production.

“Motown The Musical” includes the highs and lows of the label from its inception to the 25th Anniversary in 1983 – including Gordy’s complicated relationship with Diana Ross and how it impacted Motown.

“He has this saying, ‘The truth is a hit,’” Lewis said while laughing. “I hope that everyone understands that Mr. Gordy did all of this out of love – love for Diana, love for Stevie, love for Smokey and all of them – not even thinking Motown would grow into what it became.”

The show has fared especially well with fans in St. Louis, and Lewis believes heavily relying on Motown’s prolific catalog of hits plays a huge role in the warm reception.

“I hope that the older generation will be taken back to a time where all of their fondest memories and where they were when they heard this music,” Sykes said. “And I hope it shows the younger generation the kind of hunger and passion they had back then. Maybe seeing this musical will gives them drive to create something like Motown for the next generation.”

“Motown the Musical” continues through November 30 at The Fox Theatre. For more information, call 314.534.1111 or visit www.metrotix.com.


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