Sources: Broadway World | All Things Michael
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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