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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Reed Shannon On Tour With ‘Motown The Musical’

Sources: The Herald Sun – By Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan| All Things Michael

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“Motown the Musical” was a hit on Broadway and closed last month, taking a break to go on a national tour before returning to New York City in 2016. The tour is coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center Feb. 17-22 and is already sold out.

Two young cast members share the role of a young Berry Gordy/Stevie Wonder/Michael Jackson. Reed LoRenzo Shannon, from Wake Forest, got his theatrical start at North Carolina Theatre Conservatory in Raleigh in Raleigh and joined “Motown the Musical” in spring 2014 in Chicago. The Herald-Sun spoke with Reed, 14, recently when he was home in North Carolina on vacation.

It’s been a very busy year for the teenager, so over the break, “I just like to chill,” he said.

Reed’s mom, Belinda Shannon, who works in Research Triangle Park, said her son being cast in “Motown” has changed their lives, but also been exciting. Reed started taking theater classes at age 4 for fun. He has two older sisters — one is a student at Spelman College in Atlanta and the other is a captain in the Army. His future goals include serving as an Army officer.

Reed was cast in “Motown” after going to an open call in New York.

“I was just going to audition to see what my odds were,” Reed said. “There were about 700 people in line with me.” He was called to do a Michael Jackson workshop and was contacted the next day. He then auditioned for Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown itself plus the book writer for the show, as well as for Charles Randolph-Wright, the director of “Motown.” Randolph-Wright is a graduate of Duke University.

When Reed found out he got the job, he was eating. It was a long day and he was hungry, so he kept eating, he said, but smiled when he heard the good news. He began performing the role in Chicago, where he moved with his dad for five months during the production there.

Reed said the Stevie Wonder role is a short part, but he sings for his Michael Jackson role.

“Michael Jackson has such a unique voice, I didn’t want to mess it up,” he said. He listened to a lot of older Jackson songs and Gordy told him about Jackson as a child.

Reed thinks all the songs in “Motown” are “really amazing.” If he had to choose a favorite, it would be “Maybe Tomorrow” by the Jackson 5.

“I love that song. It’s just a nice song and the lyrics are great,” he said.

Reed already knew a lot of Motown songs — his parents played them at home and on road trips.

Reed shares the role of young Gordy/Wonder/Jackson with cast member Leon Outlaw Jr. He explained that because they’re under age 16, they can’t do eight shows a week, so they alternate nights.

“We don’t have a lot of time to do kid stuff,” Reed said, about their time off stage. They go to school, eat dinner and then do the show and go to bed, he said. They do go see who’s waiting at the stage door, though cold weather kept people away lately.

Reed has been to DPAC before, to see the national tour “Billy Elliot.” He’s very excited to be back, this time on stage.

“I just love the thought that I get to show all my friends and family what I’ve been working on since I left a year ago,” he said.

The rest of the “Motown” cast is great, talented, and taught him a lot about the business, Reed said. He’s learned to eat right, not talk all the time to preserve his voice, and to have something with him to keep him occupied.

The most fun part of being in “Motown” has been meeting all the people, he said. The tour is booked until the end of the year. Then what?

“Hopefully I’ll get roles on TV and movies, or a Broadway role in New York,” Reed said. He’ll continue to perform, he said, then go to college.

Durhamites who don’t have tickets already to “Motown” will still have a chance to see Reed and his parents for a special event at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 1007 S. Roxboro St., in Durham.

Belinda Shannon said they’re excited to be part of Mount Vernon’s Black History Month programs, especially as the musical takes place against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South. The Shannons will visit the church from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22 for a “fireside chat” about Reed’s career.

WHAT: “Motown the Musical”

WHEN: Feb. 17-22

WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center

123 Vivian St., Durham

TICKETS: Sold out.

 

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BWW Interviews Reed Shannon Of Motown National Tour

Sources: Broadway World – By  | All Things Michael

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Coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center from February 17th-22th is the national touring production of Motown: The Musical featuring Reed Shannon in the roles of Young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson.

Reed has appeared in productions of The Who‘s Tommy, In the Heights, Oliver!, and Les Miserables at North Carolina Theatre. http://www.reedshannon.com

JK: To start things off, do you remember your first introduction to the music of Motown?

RS: Well, I don’t remember exactly when I knew it was Motown, but I remember when we would go on trips, we’d play it in the car. Like at Christmas, we would play Christmas Motown. All the time, there would be Motown all around me.

JK: So how did the opportunity come about for you to audition for the musical?

RS: When I was 12 years old, I looked up online an audition for Motown, and there was one that was a week away on Friday the 13th. It was an open call, and I asked my parents if I could go, and they said yes, but only if I do good in school. I did, and so they took me to the auditions where there was over 700 people there. I auditioned, then I waited. They called back to go to New York again for a Michael Jackson workshop.

JK: I guess that Friday the 13th must’ve been a real lucky day for you?

RS: Yes, it was. After that audition, they asked me to do a video audition for the Michael Jackson workshop.

JK: When did you find out that you got cast?

RS: We were in Harlem the day after the Michael Jackson workshop. I performed in front of Mr. Gordy, then they called my dad’s phone and asked if I could be in the national tour. Of course I said yes.

JK: How does it feel for you to be playing three different music icons (Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson) at such a young age?

RS: It feels really amazing because I get to show the love of what my generation can bring to the table, so that the older people who were listening to the music when it was out know we understand the story. It’s really breathtaking that I get to play and meet two of the three icons.

JK: What was it like to meet both Mr. Gordy and Mr. Wonder?

RS: I didn’t pass out, but I was on the edge of it. It was amazing! We met Mr. Gordy many times in Chicago and Detroit where I also met Mr. Wonder. Mr. Gordy is one of the nicest human beings on Earth and Mr. Wonder is the most hilarious non-comedian out there!

JK: What a wonder!

RS: Yes.

JK: So what are you enjoying most about traveling around the country doing this show so far?

RS: Meeting all the people is really, really great! I meet different people in every different city and I make connections for when I go somewhere else.

JK: Since you’re a child actor, you don’t necessarily go on all the time. What do you normally do on nights when you don’t have to go on?

RS: I still have to be at the theatre in case of an emergency involving the other boy in the show. I basically just sit around and wait for the other boy to go onstage. I play on my computer, I read a book sometimes. Then on one of the days on the weekends, I have school.

JK: For a kid your age, how are you able to keep up with performing four times a week?

RS: I think it’s the passion that keeps me going. I have my parents with me, and I’m glad that they discipline me enough so I could sleep. If I didn’t, I would be up all the time.

JK: You were trained at the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory, what was your experience like there? Any special memories?

RS: All my memories are from there! The first time I had a solo in the group, I made friends that I’m gonna have for the rest of my life. My whole life is right there! The teachers basically taught me everything I know.

JK: It must be a second home for you.

RS: Yeah, it’s great being home!

JK: As you’re growing up, are there any dream roles you’d love to pursue in the future?

RS: Not that I know of. I mean, if somebody brings something to me and I like it, I guess I’ll go for it. But there’s no certain role that I’d like to do yet. I guess I would like to go on and do TV and movies, but I would also like to do Broadway in New York.

JK: Sometimes, the dream roles may find you rather than you finding them.

RS: Right.

JK: Is there any advice you would like to give any kids out there wanting to pursue a career in the theatre?

RS: Definitely keep on training. Get as much experience in shows as possible, because it will all pay off when you get a role. Also, to keep on doing school.

JK: Reed, I thank you very much for devoting your time to this interview, and I wish you the best of luck withMotown!

RS: Thank you so much!

 

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Eleven Year Old Returns From Broadway After Playing Michael Jackson

Sources: Deadline Detroit | All Things Michael

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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

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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

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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. 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

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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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