Motown The Musical’s Nathaniel Cullors Talks About Being Michael

Sources: Theater Jones – By Cathy O’Neal | All Things Michael

Age: 14

Born: In Okinawa Japan, lives in San Antonio, TX

First Film: Red Cape. Directed and funded by college student, still not finished.

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How did you get the part in Motown the Musical?

My aunt told my mom about the show because she had gone to see it, so my mom looked it up and saw they were having an open audition. She sent them the video of me singing “Who’s Loving You” in my sixth-grade talent show, which is one of the songs in the show. I originally booked one week in New York with the show, then one of the boys in the show left, and they put me in, so I did the Broadway show. Then, I got called to do the tour. We’ve been on the tour for a couple of weeks, but I have been with the show for nine months.

How did you prepare to play someone as well known as Michael Jackson?

I like to call it “YouTube University.” Because we live in this day and age, all you have to do is type “Michael Jackson” into the computer, and you can see everything about him — his family, his performances, his influences. Michael Jackson didn’t so much make up moves, he imitated ones he saw on TV and in concerts, so that’s what I did. I looked up James Brown [one of Jackson’s major influences] and watched his moves and then I watched how Michael Jackson did James Brown’s moves. The crowds expect to see Michael Jackson in the show, not Nathaniel Cullors, but Michael Jackson.

What age is Michael Jackson in the show?

It’s when he auditioned for Motown when he was 11 with his brothers, the entire Jackson Five.

What songs do you sing in the show?

I sing four of the Jackson Five’s major hits: “Who’s Loving You,” “ABC,” “I Want You Back” and “I’ll Be There,” but only portions of the last three. Like a medley.

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Who worked with you to prepare you?

In New York, I had a voice teacher who helped me. How I sing in the show, that’s not at all how I sing in real life. She really helped me push my voice to the next level to be louder and better. The moves are pretty open. They give you a set of moves that you have to do, but then, they tell you to add your own moves. That’s what makes Motown different. They don’t give you all the exact moves, they want you to add your own things to it. I basically do the same moves every night, but I might add an extra spin to it on some nights. I’ve figured out how I want to do it. Some nights I do more than other nights.

Is there anything in the show or about being Michael Jackson that you, Nathaniel, relate to?

When I met Berry Gordy, he said that I reminded him of Michael. Now that I’m 14, I relate to when a news reporter asked Michael Jackson what he would do about his voice changing, and he said, “It happens.” That’s really how I try to approach everything. It just happens. I just live it day by day.

Do you have a favorite Michael Jackson song?

His Motown audition song, “Who’s Loving You.” That’s when I feel closest to Michael. It was his audition song, and it was my audition song.

In addition to playing Michael Jackson, Cullors plays the young Berry Gordy and the young Stevie Wonder. He shares the roles with another young performer, Leon Outlaw Jr. They each perform four times a week. Motown the Musical runs at the Winspear through Aug. 16.

 

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‘Motown’ Will Come To Costa Mesa

Sources: OCRegister – Jackie Moe | All Things Michael

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As soul singer Marvin Gaye puts it: “Ain’t nothing like the real thing.” This may be true, but “Motown the Musical” may be a close second.

Paying tribute to the life and legacy of Motown founder Berry Gordy, the first national tour of the Broadway hit production “Motown the Musical” will make its way to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for 16 shows in 10 days, starting Tuesday. The musical is fresh off engagements at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood and San Diego Civic Center.

The show tells the story of the groundbreaking label that began in Detroit as a small independent company and grew into a multi-million-dollar empire that launched a plethora of music superstars. The 85-year-old Gordy did not take a backseat in the musical production; in addition to being a co-producer of the play that is based on his autobiography, he also co-wrote three new songs for the piece.

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, the show features more than 40 classic hits performed by actors that are nearly indistinguishable in appearance from the real artists.

“Gordy has always been a hero and an idol of mine, so working with him has been extraordinary because I had the chance to hear about his journey through him,” said Randolph-Wright in a recent phone interview, “As a director, I am supposed to take the writer’s words and his journey and put it on stage, so that was very exciting for me to be able to tell the story that he wanted and to see him so thrilled by it.”

The musical spans six decades of Motown history, chronicling Gordy’s journey that includes the highs and lows of what he went through to build a new culture of music in times of harsh racial segregation.

“There’s a moment when Martin Luther King is killed and the song ‘What’s Going On?’ articulates that better than anything you can imagine. Watching this young cast perform this really resonates,” Randolph-Wright said.

“There are also points that are more joyous. When Michael Jackson comes onstage, the roof blows off the theater. I’ve never seen that before; no matter what city we’re in, there’s no way you can be quiet when that happens.”

The audience will hear hits such as “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Music icons including Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson have their own time in the spotlight as their stories are told through their music…..

 

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Tickets For The West End Opening Of Motown The Music On Sale Today

Sources: Broadway World | All Things Michael

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Tickets for the West End production of Motown the Musical,opening at the Shaftesbury Theatre in February 2016, are released for sale today (15 May 2015). With music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalogue and book by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Motown the Musical is directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. London previews will begin on 11 February 2016 with press night on 8 March 2016 with the show booking to 22 October 2016. Casting and further information about Motown the Musical will be released shortly.

Berry Gordy said: “I am thrilled to be bringing Motown back to the UK fifty years after our first visit back in 1965 when Diana Ross and The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and I came to London for our very first UK tour. Half a century later we are delighted to be returning, this time bringing our story and the Motown sound on stage at the Shaftesbury Theatre in the legendary West End.”

With just $800 borrowed from his family, Motown founder Berry Gordy, goes from featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul, discovering and launching the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and many more. Motown The Musical uncovers the true story of the legendary record label that changed music history and created the soundtrack of a generation.

 

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Review: Leon Outlaw Jr. As Young Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder And Berry Gordy In Motown The Musical

Sources: EuroWeb – By DeBorah P. Pryor | Edited By – All Things Michael

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It will probably come as no surprise that the audience went nuts when “The Jackson Five” came on the scene. Though there are three actors cast in the role of young Michael Jackson, at this performance Leon Outlaw, Jr. performed the role (to sheer perfection, I might add). Several of the ensemble actors perform multiple roles; and young Outlaw also did well as young Berry and Stevie Wonder (another awesome performance as it is no easy task to prop your head the way Stevie does and look authentic. Kudos also to the older Stevie Wonder as well, played by Elijah Ahmad Lewis).

But as Michael Jackson, this kid was so on point. Not only did Outlaw have that pure, authentic voice we recall in young Michael so well; but he had the spirit of the youngster down pat. The first sign of which was evident in the scene where he and his brothers had finished their audition for Gordy and “Michael” runs over to the CEO and excitedly asks, “Are you gonna sign us?”

Another incredible moment for the audience was that familiar “purple hat” performance (see photo below) on the Ed Sullivan show; where at the beginning, the pose of the group alone, send many into a frenzy.

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Reed Shannon Talks Motown The Musical

Sources: Broadway World | All Things Michael

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Actor Reed Shannon is currently on tour with Motown the Musical playing Young  Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. In our chat he talks about preparing for these roles and his young theatre life so far.

Unbelievable! You are playing  Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson when they were young like you. How difficult is it for you to differenciate between the 3 boys? What do you have to do physically and mentally to portray them? Did you watch tapes or listen to CDs to get the voices just right? I know Jackson performed young but I’m not sure about Little  Stevie Wonder.

I have been playing the roles of Little Berry Gordy, Little Stevie Wonder, and Little Michael Jackson since April of 2014, which has been an awesome experience! I watched and still watch YouTube videos about each of these icons. I do not have videos of Mr. Gordy as a child, but I have spent some time with him and have read about him, and he has told me how Stevie and Michael were as kids. For the Stevie role I close my eyes and imagine not being able to see, and really use my sense of hearing every time I perform, and for the Michael Jackson role, I put myself in the mind set of auditioning as a younger child and really trying to show Mr. Gordy that I can perform for the whole world!

Did you know about these people before you became involved in this show? Had you heard Stevie Wonder sing? I’m sure you heard Michael Jackson. Talks about this.

I listened to young and older Michael Jackson before I was cast in Motown, and just a little bit of Stevie Wonder. Since landing the role, I have tried to listen to everything I can that each of them has written and produced! I believe their music has such a great message that if people take it in, it could change the world and help some of the problems in society.

What songs do you perform in Motown?

“Hey Joe (Black Like Me)”, “I Got the Feeling”,”Who’s Loving You”,”The Love You Save”,”ABC”

“I Want You Back”, and “I’ll Be There.”

How old are you? What is your experience onstage before Motown? Be specific!

Fourteen. I was trained to sing, act, and dance at NC Theatre Conservatory and my biggest roles were Gavroche inLes Miserables (regionally), and I was a work house boy in !Oliver, and also I performed as Sonny in In the Heights, and as the Youngest Tommy in The Who’s Tommy. I also had roles at my charter school in Peter Pan, School House Rock, and I was Mr. Bill the Candy Store owner and got to sing Candy Man (like Sammy Davis, Jr.), in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

Which character is the hardest for you to play? Which is the easiest? Why?

Stevie Wonder is the easiest to play, since there are just a few lines, and it is mostly acting, and the Little MJ role is the hardest, because there is so much precision dancing and singing at the same time.

How do you prepare before each show? Do you do something special before you go onstage besides vocal warmup?

I always try to get a 45 minute nap, then drink some tea with honey, get something healthy to eat like a salad, maybe play some jokes on my parents or cast mates, then put some good motivation music in my ears!

 

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Motown The Musical Is Coming To Washington DC

Sources: The National Theatre | All Things Michael

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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. Featuring classic songs such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” experience the story behind the music in the record-breaking smash hit Motown The Musical!

For more information on Motown, click here.

DATES: December 1, 2015 –  January 3, 2016

Show Run Time2 hours 40 minutes including intermission.

Where: The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004

Get TICKETS HERE

 

Motown The Musical Will Move Into Memphis’ Theater in London’s West End in Spring 2016

Sources: Broadway.com –  By Imogen Lloyd Webber| All Things Michael

Motown the Musical

Hail to the beat! The previously reported London production ofMotown The Musical will open at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End in March 2016. According to the Daily Mail, the venue’s current occupant, Memphis, is currently expected to close in October.

Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright and featuring a book by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Motown The Musical‘s score includes over 50 beloved hits from the Motown catalogue. The show tells the story of Gordy’s rise from small-town dreamer to big-time record mogul. Along the way, he discovers a slew of musical talent including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and the legendary Diana Ross, with whom he sparks a romance.

The Broadway production played its final performance on January 18 at the Lunt Fontanne Theatre to make way for Finding Neverland.Motown intends to return to the Great White Way in summer 2016 at a Nederlander theater to be announced.

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Reed Shannon: “I Try To Do My Best To Show Everybody Michael Through Me”

Sources: ABC11.com – By Anthony Wilson | All Things Michael

"Motown The Musical" Opening Night

Reed Shannon is a friendly 14-year-old who just happens to be one of the stars the Broadway show.

Reed plays three roles in the musical. He plays Motown founder Berry Gordy as a child and he plays the young Stevie Wonder. Also, in a particularly memorable performance, he plays Michael Jackson at the start of his career as lead singer for the Jackson Five.

His family says it’s a real thrill to see Reed on stage. He grew up in Wake County, where his theatrical preparation included training at the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory. His parents were big fans of the Jackson 5 when they were kids.

“The first LP that I bought with my own newspaper throwing money was “ABC,” said Reed’s dad, Keith Shannon. “I could hit the high notes then, not like Reed can hit ’em, though!”

He sure can, as anyone who has witnessed Reed’s electrifying performance as Michael Jackson will tell you.

At one point in the production, Reed wears the wide-brimmed purple hat, fringed vest, and bell bottom pants the real Michael sported for the group’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Reed commented on how it feels for the local audience to react to his performance at DPAC so positively.

“Berry Gordy always says ‘The truth is a hit.’ And so I try to do my best to show everybody Michael through me,” Reed said. “And I guess I did good enough!”

Watch Reed in action and it’s clear that he’s really studied Michael Jackson’s moves. His mother told us he’s was into the music and performances of the Jackson 5 long before he was cast in the musical.

“There were parts of Michael Jackson’s moves that Reed had to learn, and so he would go back and look at that clip,” said his mother, Belinda Shannon.

She’s referring to an iconic black and white video that shows young Michael doing the ‘James Brown’ while singing “I Got The Feeling,” recorded for review by Berry Gordy before he signed the Jackson 5.

The family says it’s great to have him back in town after more than a year on the road with the touring company.

“This is the 13th city that we’re in, in one year,” said his dad. “In Detroit, Reed got to be onstage with Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and a lot of the folks who started Motown.”

When complimented on his performance, the humble performer gives credit to his cast mates, including the preteen who shares the roles Reed plays.

“Leon Outlaw, Jr. is his name. He’s 12 years old and he’s from Brooklyn, New York,” Reed explained.

Reed’s playing before sold out crowds at the DPAC on a cold and icy weekend. So, he’s really looking forward to Motown: The Musical’s next stop: Florida.

“Yes, I’m so excited, so excited,” he said with his eyes lighting up. “When we get there on Monday it’s gonna be 83 degrees!”

Motown: The Musical ends on February 22.

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