For 14-year-old Cary, NC native Reed LoRenzo Shannon, the arrival tonight of the First National Tour of Motown the Musical at the Durham Performing Arts Center is a triumphant homecoming, with family and friends eager to watch this former North Carolina Theatre Conservatory prodigy play Young Berry Gordy, Young Stevie Wonder, and Young Michael Jackson in this Tony Award® nominated 2013 Broadway and 2015 West End jukebox musical about the meteoric rise of Detroit, MI-born African-American songwriter and record-company mogul Berry Gordy, Jr., who founded Motown Records on January 12, 1959 — and turned it into an entertainment empire that groomed Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson for stardom.
“I’m very excited,” says Reed Shannon, who alternates in the roles of Young Berry Gordy, Young Stevie Wonder, and Young Michael Jackson with Leon Outlaw, Jr.. “I will get to show my friends and family what I have been working on for the past year. It’s very exciting to come back home.” And he has a message for all his Triangle fans: “Be ready to dance in your seats!”
In addition to Reed Shannon and Leon Outlaw, Jr., the stellar tour cast of Motown the Musical includes Julius Thomas III as Berry Gordy, Allison Semmes as Diana Ross, Jesse Nager as Smokey Robinson, and Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye.
“Motown the Musical is a show not only about the music [that made Detroit ‘Hitsville U.S.A.‘], but the behind-the-scenes story and how the famous Motown groups came to be,” says Reed Shannon. “It’s also a story about the history of the United States at that time.”
Motown the Musical, which DPAC’s preshow publicity calls a “true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul,” made its Broadway debut on April 14, 2013 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where it played 738 performances before closing on Jan. 18, 2015.
The First National Tour — produced by Tony winner Kevin McCollum (Rent, In the Heights, Avenue Q), Sony Music Entertainment chairman and CEO Doug Morris, and Motown founder Berry Gordy himself and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright and choreographed by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams— opened on April 22, 2014 at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, IL. It is currently scheduled to run through a June 21-29, 2016 engagement at the Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose, CA, after which — some online sources say — the musical will return to the Great White Way in July 2016.
Also on the tour’s creative team are music director/conductor Joseph Joubert, scenic designer David Korins, associate scenic designer Rod Lemmond, lighting designer Natasha Katz, costume designer Esosa, hair-and-wig designer Charles G. Lapointe, sound designer Peter Hylenski, projection designer Daniel Brodie, and Plus, the show features music supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements by Ethan Popp and co-orchestrator and additional arranger Bryan Crook, and dance arrangements by Zane Mark.
Born on Sept. 22, 2000 in Cary, Reed LoRenzo Shannon says that he can’t remember when the theater bug bite him. But it must be around age four, when he started taking singing, acting, and dance lessons at the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory in Raleigh.
“Reed has been coming to the Conservatory since he was three years old (first tagging along with his sister Tobi) and taking classes since he was five,” recalls NCTC artistic director Ray Walker. “Reed has made his way through our program with hard work and commitment to become one of our ‘shining stars.’ Reed auditioned and became of a member of our elite-level musical-theater company, which allowed him to be eligible to come to New York City with Tito Hernandez and me on our annual company NYC trip.
“We took the kids to Motown, and Reed was in awe,” says Walker. “Many people attending the show thought Reed was the cast member who played Young Michael Jackson, and the ‘seed’ was planted. We took Reed back to Raleigh, and he found an open call online for the show, and got his father to take him. The rest is just the best story ever.”
NCTC dance department head Tito Hernandez adds, “I have taught Reed music theater and dance since he was six years old. I watched him grow, not only as a performer, but as a person with excellent character and a kind heart! He was always willing to put in that extra time to make sure that he was performing at his best. I suppose this type of discipline … helped mold the work ethic that landed him in Motown — not to mention his talent as a singer and dancer.
“He has a certain presence that lights up the stage, and makes you just want to smile. I would say that we can all rest assure that we will be hearing more of Reed in the years to come” says Hernandez.
Former NCTC director of acting Heather Patterson-King first met Reed Shannon at age eight. “Even at that age, you could tell that his personality would shine through any character he played,” she says. “He has never been confined to the words on the page or the conventional limits of what we assume a character to be. He always brings his own special self to the role.”
Not surprisingly, Reed Shannon played a Workhouse Boy in the North Carolina Theatre‘s 2012 main-stage production of Oliver!, Youngest Tommy in the NCTC’s Master Summer Theatre Arts School’s production of The Who’s Tommy and Sonny in the school’s 2013 presentation of In the Heights. But it was his sharply etched cameo as Gavroche in the NCT’s main-stage production of Les Misérables that tugged hardest on NCT patrons’ heartstrings, and earned him the hearty applause of the area’s drama critics.
“Reed is so charming as an actor and always has been!” says Heather Patterson-King. “He rose quickly to bigger roles and advanced classes at the Conservatory, because of his great dedication (instilled from wonderfully positive and strong guidance from his parents) — and his playful talent. He has also had great vision from an early age of how he wanted to move forward in this career. He knew he wanted to do this and only this. His focus and dedication during main-stage shows at NCT like Oliver! (which we did together) was evident.”
Reed Shannon, who is an eighth-grade honor student, formerly attended Wake County public school, but is currently enrolled in Great Expectations Homeschool program. Not many 14 year olds can live their dreams of performing in four of eight shows a week in the critically acclaimed First National Tour of a Broadway musical that earned four 2013 Tony nominations, including two for Best Sound Design of a Musical and Best Orchestrations of the Motown Songbook, which includes vivacious versions of “ABC”; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”; “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”; “Baby I Need Your Loving”; “Dancing in the Street”; “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”; “My Girl”; “Please, Mr. Postman”; “Shop Around”; “Stop in the Name of Love”; “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch”; “Tears of a Clown”; “What’s Going On”; and “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me ” — to name just a few of the 66 songs that several generations of Americans know by heart.
“I have an open-ended contract, until I grow out of the role or my voice changes,” says Reed Shannon. He adds, “Every day, I think about all of my blessings, and I try to make it all count when I go onstage.”
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 17th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview by Kathy Hanrahan for “What’s on Tap”: http://www.wral.com/-motown-the-musical-to-go-on-at-dpac/14452483/; Feb. 14th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/02/14/4553602/preview-of-motown-the-musical.html; Feb. 12th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/x681773845/MOTOWN-MAGIC-N-C-teen-Reed-Shannon-on-tour-with-Motown-the-Musical (Note: You must subscribe to read this article); Feb. 2nd Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh interview with Reed Shannon, conducted by Jeffrey Karasarides: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interviews-Reed-Shannon-of-MOTOWN-National-Tour-20150202; and March 6, 2014 Raleigh, NC WNCN-TV interview with Reed Shannon, conducted by Valonda Calloway and Mike Morse for “My Carolina Today”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtaY3tiRH28&feature=youtu.be.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17-19, 8 p.m. Feb. 20, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 21, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $52.19-$179.31 (including fees). Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1984012.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://www.motownthemusical.com/videos.php.
TOUR CAST: http://www.motownthemusical.com/tour-cast.php.
TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.motownthemusical.com/creative.php.
2014-15 SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2014-15.
DPAC WEATHER POLICY: Unless DPAC makes a specific announcement, all shows will go on as scheduled. If inclement weather or adverse travel conditions prevent you from attending, please e-mail CustomerService@dpacnc.com. Click here for details of the DPAC Weather Policy.
DPAC PARENTAL ADVISORY: “All guests require a ticket, regardless of age. Children under the age of 6 will not be admitted to the theater. Children must be able to sit quietly in their own seat without disturbing other guests. As a further courtesy to our guests, DPAC recommends one parent or chaperone for every one child in attendance.”
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20th, performance.
Motown the Musical (2013 Broadway and 2015 West End musical): http://www.motownthemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=493341 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motown:_The_Musical (Wikipedia).
Berry Gordy, Jr. (Detroit, MI-born composer, lyricist, and librettist and founder of Motown Records and Tamla Records): http://www.rockhall.com/inductees/berry_gordy_jr/ (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bio), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=84065 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0330700/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berry_Gordy (Wikipedia).
Reed LoRenzo Shannon (Cary, NC-born actor who plays Young Berry Gordy, Young Stevie Wonder, and Young Michael Jackson): http://www.reedshannon.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/reedlorenzo.shannon (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/reedshannon22 (Twitter page).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing email@example.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)