Broadway’s Motown The Musical is in DC for the holidays, bringing the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy and the music legends whose careers he launched to National Theatre’s stage. From “My Girl” to “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” Motown features 40 classic Motown hits performed by a stellar cast playing Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and more. On Tap caught up with the musical’s youngest cast members, 12-year-old Leon Outlaw, Jr. and 14-year-old Nathaniel Cullors, about their roles.
Outlaw and Cullors both play a young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. “It is truly an honor playing the roles of these icons,” Outlaw says. “I’m only 12 years old and I get to play my idol Michael Jackson, and two living legends. Whenever my act is over, I wish there was more for me to do.”
Cullors, who performs the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “Who’s Loving You,” echoes his co-star’s sentiment, though he credits James Brown as his inspiration. The two actors are Motown fans in their own right – Cullors’ favorites are Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Me” and “Inner City Blues.”
“Motown changed the world,” he says. “Motown I feel is [a] format for a lot of music we hear today, which makes it timeless. This type of music brought people together, got people through things and is still doing it today.”
Cullors and Outlaw are both learning some fun facts about Motown stars, which they were eager to share with On Tap. “What’s unique about Motown is you will be dancing in your seats and you will learn something before you leave – like Marvin Gaye was Berry Gordy’s brother-in-law,” Outlaw says.
Catch Cullors, Outlaw and the rest of Motown The Musical’s talented cast at the National Theatre from December 15 to January 3. And don’t forget to check the website for details on how to purchase best available tickets for all Broadway at the National performances through the $25 ticket lottery.
National Theatre: 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; 202-628-6161;www.thenationaldc.org