‘Motown The Musical’ Star In The Spotlight

Leon Outlaw JrSACRAMENTO – Leon Outlaw Jr. wasn’t even born when Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 took the world by storm in 1969/1970 with their debut hit single, “I Want you Back.” However, the 14-year-old actor/singer who stars as little Michael Jackson in the national touring production of “Motown, The Musical,” says he grew up listening to the late, great iconic singer because his parents would often have the Jackson 5’s music playing in their house.

“I became a huge fan of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 and would dance to the music and impersonate Michael all the time,” said Outlaw Jr. during a recent phone interview prior to his performance in “Motown, The Musical” which rolls into the Sacramento Community Center Theatre May 18-29.

“I’ve probably watched the Michael Jackson Live DVD a hundred times,” added Outlaw Jr. “I had everything Michael Jackson did down pat.”

In addition to portraying Michael Jackson in “Motown, The Musical,” Outlaw Jr. also plays a young Berry Gordy and young Stevie Wonder.

“To be able to be on stage emulating my music idol (Michael Jackson) and two iconic legends such as Motown founder Berry Gordy and Stevie Wonder is really a dream come true,” he said.

The musical production features more than 40 classic Motown hits such as “My Girl,” Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and a medley of Jackson 5 songs including: “I Want You Back” and “The Love You Save.”

“Motown, The Musical” tells the remarkable story of Motown founder and songwriter Berry Gordy who, against all odds created a musical empire that produced such dynamic artists and groups like Diana Ross, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell among others. The “Sound of Young America” as Motown was referred to in its halcyon days, continues to influence and inspire many musicians today.

Outlaw Jr., who grew up in New York City, said landing the part in “Motown, The Musical” really all happened rather quickly,”

“My mom was at church one day and found out through a friend that the production company was casting for a young Michael Jackson. She knew how much I loved Michael and told my mother that I’d be perfect and should definitely give it a shot.”

As luck would have it, Outlaw Jr, was invited to the auditions and had to dance in front of Berry Gordy. “I was a little nervous, actually quite a bit nervous” admitted Outlaw Jr. “But then I realized that this was my one and only chance to prove what I could do. So I launched into a high energetic dance version of “The Love You Save” for him and felt really good about it. Afterwards he thanked me and I was told like the others that they would be in touch with me one way or another.”

Outlaw Jr. says he got even more nervous because he hadn’t heard anything about his audition. “I was watching TV and my parents came in and told me that I got the part. I was stunned and so happy because I knew that they saw a lot of talented performers. To be chosen out of all of them is still incredible to me.”

Outlaw Jr. has been performing with the National Touring Production of “Motown, The Musical” for two years now and he says it’s taken him almost as long to fully grasp his accomplishment. One of the most challenging things he says about being a part of the theatrical production isn’t the travel necessarily, or the constant performances, but rather being able to juggle his home schooling.

“My schooling always comes first,” says the 8th grader. “My mother sees to that. Plus, I really enjoy my courses. It’s a nice balance for me.”

While Outlaw Jr. realizes he’s fortunate to land such a coveted spot in “Motown, The Musical,” he says he hasn’t let the attention and stardom change him.

“I still like doing regular stuff that normal 14-year-old kids do,” he said. “I love playing basketball and listening to music, all kinds really. I knew at an early age that I wanted to be an entertainer. So it’s an honor to be in this position. I’m not sure where this will lead me, hopefully maybe into doing TV commercials, movies and music, but I am thrilled to be part of such a legendary production like “Motown, The Musical.” When people come up to me after a show and tell me that my performance really touched them and made them happy, that’s just the best thing. It’s a special feeling for them and me. That’s the effect “Motown, The Musical” has on people. This music touches your very soul.”

“Motown, The Musical” will play at the Community Center Theater for a two-week engagement May 18-29. Tickets are available at the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office, 1419 H Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 557-1999. They are also available at the Convention Center Box Office, 1301 L Street, Sacramento, or by calling (916) 808-5181, or online at Tickets.com. Sacramento Community Center Theater is located at 1301 L Street in Sacramento.

Groups of 12 or more can reserve tickets by calling (916) 557-1198. Performance schedule, prices and cast are subject to change without notice. For more information call (916) 557-1999 or visit BroadwaySacramento.com.

Evening performances are Wednesday, May 18- Saturday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m.; and Tuesday, May 24 – Saturday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. Matinee performances are Thursday, May 19; Saturday, May 21; Sunday, May 22; Thursday, May 26; Saturday, May 28; and Sunday, May 29 at 2:00 p.m.

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By LANA K. WILSON-COMBS

Special To THE OBSERVER