Get ready, ‘cause here they come! Broadway.com is taking a deep dive into some of the musical icons who grace the stage in Motown: The Musical, which charts the life of Motown mogul Berry Gordy. Our Legends of Motown series is kicking off with Eric LaJuan Summers, who shows off his smooth moves as rhythm and blues icon Jackie Wilson. This master of showmanship went solo in 1957 and launched a career of pop, doo-wop and R&B hits—all while earning the title Mr. Excitement. Read on for Summers' summary of this sensational performer!
Name: Eric LaJuan Summers
Age & Hometown: 30; St. Louis, MO
Role: Jackie Wilson (also Billy Gordon of the Contours, Marlon of the Jackson 5, Rick James and one of the Four Tops).
First/fondest memory of your icon:I remember watching a VHS full of Michael Jackson moments when I was really young, including the Motown 25 concert and the Grammys. Michael won Album of the Year and thanked his hero, Jackie Wilson. I remember being confused, thinking, "Who is this artist that MICHAEL JACKSON would thank for being one of the greatest?" So I looked him up and couldn't believe he was doing those moves first. Fell in love with his style immediately!
Favorite song sung by your icon: "To Be Loved," which Brandon Victor Dixon kills [in the show]. It's amazing! And "Higher and Higher."
What does it mean to you to be playing your icon? Honestly, I’m not sure if I have the words for it. It's combining all my loves. The musician, the actor, dancing...but to be honoring Jackie Wilson?! Yeah, this will be one role I'll cherish forever. It means EVERYTHING!
Most surprising fact you learned about your icon: That he collapsed while singing “Lonely Teardrops” on stage. The actual line was, "My heart is crying.” There's something very eerie and poetic about that.
Hardest thing about playing your icon: Probably knowing that Jackie Wilson was—IS—still one of Mr. Gordy's favorites. He's the one that he held other artists to. Trying to capture that feeling for Berry Gordy again...yeah. Pressure!
Easiest thing about playing your icon: Getting to wear ESosa's gorgeous costume! And having...well, fun. Jackie was known as Mr. Excitement, so for me, it's like putting a kid in a candy store. Giving me a great song and telling me to make it fun for myself...done!
Which of your icon’s songs do you sing in the show? “Reet Petite”
If you could meet your icon, what would you say to him? Thank you! Without you, we wouldn't have had the stylings of James Brown and Michael Jackson! Oh...and can we do a duet? Obviously.
One word to describe your icon: Classic.
Click here for more Legends of Motown profiles!