When Harrell Holmes Jr. auditioned for a part in “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations,” the role of Melvin Franklin wasn’t what he had in mind.
“I went in for the Eddie Hendricks part, but after I sang my song something in my gut told me, ‘Maybe I should show them I can do Melvin, too,’ ” remembered Holmes, who is playing Franklin in the national touring production of the show coming to Proctors for six days beginning Tuesday. “He had such a deep baritone I was a little intimidated by him. So I asked them, ‘Can I do Melvin too?’ And after I did it they said, ‘Yeah, this is your character. Melvin is absolutely your character.’ ”
“Ain’t Too Proud” opened on Broadway in March of 2019 and was a big success, earning 11 Tony Award nominations and one win for Sergio Trujillo and his choreography. The show had its world premiere in Los Angeles in 2018, which Holmes saw.
“I didn’t even know the show existed when one of my best friends said, ‘Come on, I’m gonna take you to a show,’ ” remembered Holmes. “It was ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ before it went to Broadway, and I was just blown away. I thought to myself, ‘I gotta be a part of this show. I can sing. I can do all that dancing. I think I can do this.’ ”
“Ain’t Too Proud” was not an introduction to the Temptations for Holmes — not even close. Although he is only 30, Holmes began listening to one of Motown’s biggest acts from the 1960s when his grandmother offered him a VHS tape of the 1998 television movie about the group. He was 7.
“I probably watched it every day for a month straight,” said Holmes. “My mother thought I was nuts but I was really into it. For my third grade talent show, I told her that I wanted to do a Temptations song.”
Holmes was a hit in the show and he didn’t stop there. He created a group, the Little Temptations, and he and four friends had a number of gigs in his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan.
“We performed at schools throughout our district and then ended up going all around the state,” he said. “I just wanted to be a Temptation. Thank God my mom let me do the song for the talent show.”
Holmes’ parents went a step further. Realizing their son was talented and that he had a dream, they left their home in Michigan and moved to Los Angeles.
“We flew out to LA to do ‘Star Search,’ and because of that going very well my parents said, ‘OK, how are we going to make this happen?’ They knew I had a dream.”
Despite his singing and dancing talent, Holmes wasn’t truly thinking about the stage. He had always assumed that television and the movies were going to get him where he wanted to go. In 2019, he starred in the Prime Video production of “Roommates,” a comedy about a group of young college students dealing with a number of issues.
“I’m still auditioning for stuff in LA and I have a new agent in New York,” said Holmes. “I really hadn’t done any theater, so I’m not actually sure what’s going to come next for me. I still want to do TV and film, but now I know I can work towards performing in all areas.”
He will most likely be very busy over the next eight months with his current gig, telling the story of the Temptations, voted by Billboard Magazine in 2017 as the greatest R&B group of all time. They had four No. 1 songs that hit the Billboard pop charts and also have three Grammys on their resume. Along with the title number from the musical “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” their signature songs include “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ball of Confusion” and “Treat Her Like a Lady.”
Joining Holmes on the stage as group members will be Michael Andreaus, E. Clayton Cornelious, Jalen Harris and Elijah Ahmad Lewis. Franklin was the first group member to die, passing away in 1995 at the age of 52 due to a series of health problems.
“It’s the story of their life, from when they were teenagers to when they, sadly, passed away,” said Holmes. “Franklin had a number of health problems. He developed arthritis and was encouraged to retire, but he kept on taking cortisone shots because he loved performing, and that led to other problems.”
While the show tells the group’s entire story, it does focus particularly on the glory years from the 1960s and ‘70s.
“They were young men in their early 20s, trying to navigate family life and superstardom during the tumultuous ’60s,” said Holmes. “They were megastars, but there were Black people still being shot in the South. There were those challenges and then there were also some internal struggles. Sometimes they had conflicts with each other and sometimes there were fights with Motown. The Temptations were just one group that was under this huge umbrella, and Motown was the company that controlled things.”
Holmes has enjoyed seeing the country on this national tour, which actually started rehearsals for the show back in December of 2021 at Proctors.
“This is where we did our tech rehearsals, and I can remember Proctors and walking in there and being really excited about what I was doing,” said Holmes. “That was where I had my first dressing room. I really was nervous. Now it’s coming full circle.”
When all the traveling gets a bit old, Holmes says he is reinvigorated by the audience.
“It does get a bit challenging being on the road and moving every week,” he said. “But the fact that I get to tell this story is pretty incredible. And every week we get new energy because we have new crowds. It is still a lot of fun.”
“Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Tuesday and runs through May 28; performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $95.50-$30.50
MORE INFO: Call (518) 346-6204 or visit proctors.org
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts