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    When Chase Phillips was five, he’d dress up in costumes, pop into his mom’s room in their Shively home and put on performances. “He used to do puppet shows and would create the whole stage out of a box,” his mother, Stephanie Nelson, says. “He actually said he wanted to be a child actor when he was five.” Now Chase is 10. And for the past month or so he has been playing young versions of Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson in the touring production of Motown: The Musical (in Lexington in April). “You’re not nervous because you’re gonna mess up,” Chase says. “You’re nervous because you want to do good, which means you care.”

    Chase’s kindergarten and first-grade teachers at Wilder Elementary told Nelson her son should attend Lincoln Performing Arts School instead. Nelson decided to let Chase, well, chase his dreams. “He actually told me that he loved acting so much that he didn’t care if anyone ever came to see him,” Nelson says. Chase performed in Macbeth at Actors Theatre. His dream role is Barack Obama.

    Mowtown, based on Gordy’s book To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown, debuted on Broadway in 2013. When Nelson heard auditions for the touring show were being held in Detroit, she and her son made the trip. Chase auditioned in front of Gordy, who founded the Motown record label. What was Chase’s reaction to being cast in Motown? “The very first thing he did was scream and thank God and Jesus,” Nelson says.

    Chase is onstage for about 30 minutes per show. The role is mostly Michael Jackson. He performs the Jackson 5-era classics “I Got the Feelin’,” “ABC” and “I Want You Back.” “I have to practice the songs a lot — not just how Michael Jackson did it, but how other people did it, to see if they did anything I could do or change,” Chase says. “I also look at other actors to see how they worked and how they found their characters and how they rehearsed. I just kind of copied what they did because they have a lot of experience.”

    This originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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