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