The jukebox musical Ain't Too Proud traces the brotherly bonds that united The Temptations singers—and at the Imperial Theatre, family ties have gotten a bit stronger.
Two weeks before the pandemic shuttered theaters, Matt Manuel made his Broadway debut as David Ruffin in Ain't Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations. He took his bow, turned with the cast to acknowledge the 17-piece band, and then exited the stage. Two days later, he received a direct message on Instagram from the musical's violist, Andrew Griffin: “So…I think we’re cousins…?”
As reported in The New York Times, Griffin and Manuel are indeed related: they are second cousins once removed. Manuel’s great-grandmother is Griffin’s grandfather’s older sister, a realization made when Manuel’s mother, Amiesha Williams, came to New York to see her son perform. She took a video of the bows, sharing it proudly in a family Facebook group. Relatives chimed in with their support, but the excitement did not stop there. Williams' relative and Griffin’s mother, Linda, commented that her son, too, was in that video: he was in the center of the frame playing the viola with the band.
The made plans to meet up and gab about their family, and then COVID came along, pausing work for both of them. Each resided in separate areas during the pandemic, but now, a year and a half later, both are back at work at the Imperial. Last month, both attended a member of the Ain't Too Proud production team's birthday party and had a chance to really reunite and connect.
“Now let’s pick up where we left off,” Manuel said.
After an 19 month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ain't Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations returned to the Imperial Theatre October 16. The Temptations bio-musical first opened on Broadway March 21, 2019 after beginning previews February 28.