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Raleigh Teen Stars In "Motown The Musical"

Motown, Reed Shannon

The cast and crew of the Broadway show “Motown the Musical” stormed into North Carolina this week.

One of the stars of the show is Reed Shannon of Raleigh.  The teenager has gotten great reviews playing a young “Michael Jackson” for crowds from San Francisco to the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Reed starts off his audition tape like this - " Hi, my name is Reed Shannon, and I love Motown!”

But just loving Motown isn’t enough.  You have to be able to blow!

The first song on Reed's audition tape is "Who's Loving You," made famous by a very young Michael Jackson.  He does the song justice.

About 1,000 boys auditioned across the country to join the touring cast of “Motown the Musical.”  Reed auditioned in Charlotte.  The list was quickly cut to 200.  Reed made the cut and sent in his audition tape.  Reed says that audition  tape helped him make the top 12, which included an invitation to a Michael Jackson Workshop in New York. 

“The workshop only lasted two days, because they thought we learned enough on the first day, that they just brought in Berry Gordy on the second day.  And they eliminated seven people the first day," said Reed.

Fourteen-year-old Reed made the top five and then the top two, along with 12-year-old Leon Outlaw Jr.  The two boys rotate performing the roles of a young Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, a young Stevie Wonder and young Michael Jackson.

“Well it’s magical, but, Reed has also worked very hard to get to this place," said Ray Walker.

Walker is the Artistic Director of the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory in Raleigh where Reed got his start.

“It’s a great, great accomplishment.  And we’re very, very proud of you Reed," said Walker.

“Motown the Musical” opened at DPAC Tuesday night.  Since Reed performs every other night, he spent time visiting his friends at the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory and hosting a question and answer session with other rising stars.  One big question, how long will Reed get to play Young Michael Jackson.

“Every month I get weighed in. They measure my head, my neck, my like torso.  Cause if I’m out here, I can’t fit my costume," Reed laughs with the other children.

Reed’s contract states he can’t grow more than two inches or gain more than 10 pounds.  But really, it’s more about that voice.

Lee Jeffries of Durham is a conservatory student and performed with Reed in “The Rhyming Christmas Carol.”  She’s not surprised he’s a star.

“He’s very outgoing and talented and he’s really happy, everybody knows him cause he’s super nice and welcoming," said Jeffries.

After a few photos, Reed is back in the family mini-van headed to DPAC.  One of his parents Keith or Belinda Shannon is with him at all times, no matter the city. 

“Because he’s our youngest child, and the only one at home we have major flexibility. And so Keith can travel 100% with Reed and then I go visit them on weekends," said Belinda Shannon.

“Motown the Musical” runs through Sunday.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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