On Stage: Broadway touring shows debut locally

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations

The first two national tours of Broadway shows visiting the area have touched down this week.

Coincidentally, both “firsts” have titles that start with the first letter of the alphabet – “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations” in Philadelphia and “Annie” in Wilmington.

The Kimmel Cultural Campus and The Shubert Organization are hosting the first national tour of “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations” for the first time in Philadelphia. The Broadway smash hit musical will play at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) now through January 21 as part of the 2023-24 Broadway series.

Featuring Grammy®-winning songs and Tony®-winning moves, “Ain’t Too Proud” is the electrifying new musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The musical received 12 Tony nominations and won the Tony Award for Best Choreography at the 73rd Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 10, 2019.

With their signature dance moves and unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts, creating an amazing 42 Top Ten Hits – with 14 reaching #1 – and being voted the greatest R&B group of all time by Billboard Magazine in 2017.

The rest is history — how they met, the groundbreaking heights they hit, and how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the United States fell into civil unrest. This thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal is set to the beat of the group’s treasured hits, including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and so many more.

The Temptations released a series of successful singles and albums with Motown Records during the 1960s to early 1970s. The group’s work with producer Norman Whitfield, beginning with the Top 10 hit single “Cloud Nine” in October 1968, pioneered psychedelic soul, and was significant in the evolution of R&B and soul music. The band members are known for their choreography, distinct harmonies, and dress style. Having sold tens of millions of albums, the Temptations are among the most successful groups in popular music.

Featuring five male vocalists and dancers (save for brief periods with fewer or more members), the group formed in 1960 in Detroit under the name the Elgins. The founding members came from two rival Detroit vocal groups: Otis Williams, Elbridge “Al” Bryant, and Melvin Franklin of Otis Williams & the Distants, and Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams of the Primes. In 1964, Bryant was replaced by David Ruffin, who was the lead vocalist on a number of the group’s biggest hits, including “My Girl” (1964), “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” (1966), and “I Wish It Would Rain” (1967).

Ruffin was replaced in 1968 by Dennis Edwards, with whom the group continued to record hit records such as “Cloud Nine” (1968), “I Can’t Get Next to You” (1969), and “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” (1970). The group’s lineup has changed frequently since the departures of Kendricks and Paul Williams from the act in 1971. Later members of the group have included singers such as Richard Street, Damon Harris, Ron Tyson, and Ali-Ollie Woodson, with whom the group scored a late-period hit in 1984 with “Treat Her Like a Lady” and in 1987 with the theme song for the children’s movement program “Kids in Motion.”

The Temptations celebrated their 60th Anniversary through 2022. To mark this milestone, The Temptations released a brand-new album, “Temptations 60,” with nearly all-original songs in January 2022 and are still touring in the U.S, as well as abroad to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, fall of 2022.

Ranked #1 in Billboard magazine’s most recent list of the “Greatest R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of All Time,” The Temptations also appear in the magazine’s 125th Anniversary list of the “125 Greatest of All Time Artists.” In addition, Rolling Stone magazine named the group among the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”

The group’s popularity is ever-increasing, and they are one of the most iconic, bestselling brands in the entertainment world today. In 1989, The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

While the group has evolved over the years, Dr. Otis Williams has continued to lead the group and carry the torch forward for the next generation of Temptations’ fans. Williams, the sole surviving, original member of The Temptations, turned 80 on October 30, 2021.

Stepping into the role of Otis Williams in the musical will be original first national tour cast member, Michael Andreaus, and joining the tour from the Original Broadway Company is E. Clayton Cornelious as Paul Williams. They join the current Classic Temptations Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, Harrell Holmes Jr. as Melvin Franklin, and Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin.

“We started touring in December 2021 – not long after the lockdown ended,” said Andreaus, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Atlanta.

“I started as Berry Gordy and covered Otis. When the guy playing Otis took off, I moved into the role in 2022. Philly will be a year since the change.

“The Broadway production weas running while we were rehearsing. Two other members of our tour cast were in the Broadway production.”

Andreaus, a graduate of University of Central Oklahoma, was familiar with the music of the Temptations for most of his life.

“Motown music – especially the Temptations – was a staple in my house when I was little. My mom and dad both loved Motown. ‘My Girl’ was one of the songs I first remember as a great song I listened to when I was a kid.”

Christmas Day in 1964, the Temptations were doing a Motortown Revue show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater with the Supremes, the Marvellettes, Marvin Gaye, the Miracles and Stevie Wonder. The next day Motown released “My Girl.” It charted at #76 three weeks later.

It was 1965, when “My Girl” became a #1 Pop chart hit, that was a game changer for Williams and The Temptations. The Temptations were performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem when they received a telegram from Berry Gordy, The Supremes, The Beatles and many others, congratulating them on their #1 success.

The Temptations’ fan base went global and like The Beatles, they became a household name worldwide. This was a mic drop moment in Williams’ iconic career. It was The Temptations’ first #1 million copy chart hit. “My Girl” would become the group’s magnum opus, and it was inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2018 it was entered into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.

“The Temptations’ catalog has been a great influence ever since I was really young,” said Andreaus. “I had seen the mini-series. I read the book. And I met Otis a few times.”

Dr. Otis Williams and The Temptations are still lighting up concert stages around the world. The Temptations embarked on a national concert tour in 2022 that crisscrossed the U.S. They also headlined concerts in fall 2022 in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Williams and the current Temptations lineup will perform locally twice in spring 2024 – May 4 at the American Music Theater in Lancaster and May 9 at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington.

“Otis has come to see this tour a few times,” said Andreaus, whose resume includes Broadway: “A Soldier’s Play” (Roundabout), Off-Broadway: “Love and Yogurt” (NY Theatre Barn), and Film/TV: “Finding Carlos,” and “When They See Us.”

“He loves the show. Also, I’ve had the chance to ask him questions. He saw my performance in Nashville and gave it his seal of approval.

“He loves it. He’s still overwhelmed that there was a show about his life. He loves us and tells people to come out and see us and support the show.”

It’s a guarantee that at every show, there will be people around the audience who (loudly) exclaim – “oh, I didn’t know this was a song by the Temptations.”

“The catalog is so vast,” said Andreaus. “People hear a song and didn’t realize it was a Temptations’ song or a song that the Temptations did first – like ‘Papa was a Rolling Stone.’

“The story also reaches people – realizing what the group endured. There were conflicts within the group especially with Motown – especially during the Vietnam war when Berry wanted to keep the music upbeat.

“The song ‘War’ was originally supposed to be a Temptations’ song, but Berry Gordy didn’t want the Temptations to do a protest song. There were a lot of ups-and-downs over the years. The story is what really gets to the people.”

Video link for “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations” – https://youtu.be/cdrUhqleHxI.

“Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations” will run now through January 21 at the Academy of Music.

Ticket prices start at $27.

In this era of political divisiveness, war, climate problems, fear, hate mongering and despair, a musical that celebrates truth, love, hope, happiness is a welcome event.


From January 5-7, the Playhouse on Rodney Square (1007 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, www.thegrandwilmington.org) is presenting a three-day, four-show run of “Annie.” This tour is produced by Crossroads Live North America.

The structure of this show is different than many other shows. The main character has the arc and everyone around Annie transforms. It was the Great Depression. Everyone was suffering and there was this little girl with an indomitable spirit. The show is funny but it’s also about truth and love.

“Annie” is directed by Jenn Thompson, choreographed by Patricia Wilcox (Motown, A Night with Janis Joplin), music supervision by Matthew Smedal, with orchestrations by Dan DeLange. Talitha Fehr is the Music Coordinator and Jennifer Christina is the Music Director.

According to director Jenn Thompson, who at the age of 10 stepped into the role of “Pepper” in the Original Broadway production, “This show, with its iconic title character, continues to delight generations of theatre-lovers old and new by joyfully singing directly into the face of great adversity with perseverance, guts and guile.

“For decades, ‘Annie’ has continued to shine brightly, not only as an appeal to our better angels, but also as an example of the thrill of hope, hard-won: promising a better ‘Tomorrow’ not only for Annie herself, but for all who need her message now more than ever.”

The National Tour of “Annie” features a stellar cast. In the title role of Annie is Rainier “Rainey” Treviño, an 11-year-old from Chesapeake, Virginia making her national tour debut.  Returning principal cast includes Stefanie Londino as “Miss Hannigan,” Christopher Swan as “Oliver Warbucks,” Julia Nicole Hunter as “Grace,” and Mark Woodard as “FDR.” Also starring in the tour are Jeffrey T. Kelly as “Rooster” and Samantha Stevens as “Lily.  Georgie, rescued by William Berloni, stars as “Sandy.”

“This is not your daddy’s ‘Annie’,” said Londino, during a phone interview. “We’ve got something new for you. The music is stunning with all new orchestrations.

“I’m a Jersey girl – born and raised. I was born in New Brunswick and raised in Elizabeth. From there, I went to college at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. They have a great Shakespeare program.

“I studied in their actor training program. I wanted the challenge. Then, the East Coast called me back.”

Londino has performed in ​Broadway national tours of “A Bronx Tale” (Rosina) and “Fiddler on the Roof” (Shaindel). Her Off-Broadway credits include “The Mayor of Williamsburg,” “What Do Critics Know?,” “Flak House”  and“Red Wine in Paper Cups.” She is also an original rock musician who has recorded several albums and opened for Bon Jovi.

“I like playing the role of Miss Hannigan because she is a female powerhouse,” said Londino. “It’s such a delight to have a force in the play.

“She’s often portrayed as a cartoon. Jenn (director Jenn Thompson) looks at her as a real person. She is the dark side of the Annie coin.

“In terms of structure, she’s a villain – but she has to deal with the circumstances. The humor in her and the darkness play off each other. The darker she can be, the more hilarious she becomes.”

The original production of Annie had its world premiere on Aug 10, 1976, at the Goodspeed Opera House in Haddam, Connecticut, and opened on Broadway on April 21, 1977, at the Alvin Theatre (Neil Simon Theatre).  The production, featured Andrea McArdle as Annie, went on to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, seven Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, the Grammy for Best Cast Show Album, and seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Book (Thomas Meehan) and Best Score (Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin). It closed on Broadway after playing 2,377 performances.

“Annie” was revived on Broadway in 1997 and again in 2014. It has been made into a film three times (1982, 1999, 2014) and was most recently featured as a live television production on NBC. The show remains one of the biggest Broadway musical hits ever. It has been performed in 28 languages and has been running somewhere around the world for 45 years.

The beloved score for “Annie” includes “Maybe,” “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” and the eternal anthem of optimism, “Tomorrow.”

The show has gone on numerous national tours and featured notable cast members such as child star Amanda Balon as Annie and television/movie/stage/rock band veteran Mackenzie Phillips as Lily St. Regis.

Video link for “Annie” — https://youtu.be/3ylwnM6MLBg.

Ticket prices start at $50.

A lot of current music fans are too young to have seen Sublime perform. Not surprisingly since the band has been gone for more than two decades.

Sublime may be gone but the music of the ska punk band from Southern California lives on.

When a trio loses its guitarist/vocalist/primary songwriter, it usually spells the end of the band. Such was the case with Sublime when the trio’s main man Brad Nowell died in 1996.

The music of Sublime lives on through Badfish – A Tribute to Sublime. In addition to being the best Sublime tribute band, it is one of the premier tribute acts in America.

There are many, many Sublime fans who wish they were concertgoers during its eight-year run from 1988-1996. Fortunately for them and for longtime sublime fans, there is Badfish, a band from Rhode Island featuring Joel Hanks on bass, Scott Begin on drums, Dorian Duffy on Keyboards and Pat Downes on vocals and guitar.

Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Badfish on January 10.

Badfish covers virtually the entire catalog of songs from Sublime’s three albums – 1992’s “40oz. to Freedom,” 1994’s “Robbin’ the Hood” and 1996’s “Sublime.”

“We’ve pretty much learned all the tracks from all three albums,” said Begin, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in South Kingston, Rhode Island.

“The middle album – ‘Robbin’ the Hood’ – has some instrumental tracks that we might not do exactly as they were recorded but the rest is all pretty true. With ‘40oz’ and the self-titled album, we know them front-to-back. We’ve even performed them in their entirety from start to finish.”

Badfish has always been a Sublime tribute band. It took its name from the title of a song appearing on the album “40oz. to Freedom.”

“The band started in 2001 at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston,” said Begin. “I met Joel there. We started the band as college students looking to do something on weekends. When we first started, we were jamming on reggae and punk tunes.

“We decided right away to be a Sublime tribute band. We booked a show two weeks out and rehearsed every day. Our first show was April 13, 2001, at Ocean Mist in South Kingston. We still play there.

“After a while, we started taking it seriously. It evolved into a full-time touring band. Joel and I both were computer science majors at URI. We graduated in 2002 and 2003/2004 was when we really started to get serious. It was a lot of risk, but we knew it was worth it.”

Now, two decades later, Badfish is still going strong.

“The core of the four of us remains the same – Joel on bass, Pat as the singer, Dorian on keys and samplers and I play drums and do backup vocals.” said Begin. “We rotate in horn players.

“Our old singer – David Ladin – was with us for five or six years. He was a local guy from Kingston. He left the band because he had started a family. Then, Pat Downes, who had played sax with us at times, took over vocals and guitar.

“Pat is a great singer. That’s a good thing for us because the main challenge for any tribute band is to sound like the vocalist. For me, the biggest challenge was learning the distinctive style of Sublime’s drummer Bud Gaugh.”

Over the years, Badfish have conquered all the challenges and that has allowed the music of Sublime to live on.

“We’re playing the music of Sublime, and they had three major releases,” said Begin. “So, we don’t have a large set list.”

Badfish does have some recorded material that it will be releasing in the new year – recordings of original songs.

According to Begin, “Putting out original music alongside being a tribute band has always been a point of interest to us. It’s been a tricky path to walk, though. Yet as the years have gone by and we’ve gotten to witness our little show turn into somewhat of a movement within the scene, we are at the point where we feel we have something of real heart and value to add not only to our show but to the American reggae scene.”

During the lockdown, Badfish did some livestream shows featuring Sublime songs and, at the same time, began looking in a different direction.

“We started toying with the idea of doing our own music,” said Begin. “Original music – the idea that we were coming out with our music – what was being presented by certain guys in the band. We started and stopped with originals over the years.

“Once we turned the corner, it started moving. The summer of 2022 was when it really got moving. Just as Sublime owed a debt to reggae bands, our new material is rooted in reggae.”
Badfish will never abandon Sublime’s music.

“We never will run out of Sublime songs – well-known tracks and lesser-known songs,” said Begin. “We probably could do five hours if we really dug into it. We’ve always tried to strike a balance between well-known cuts and album cuts.

“We have five originals in the can that are 90 per cent of the way there with the intent of releasing it as an EP after a few singles over the next few months. We have another 8-10 demos in the works.”

Badfish has already released the first “original” single – “High With You.”

“We started recording it in summer 2022,” said Begin. “We completed it last fall when the band Little Strangers contributed a verse. Now, we’ll sneak the new single into the live show.”

Video link for Badfish — https://youtu.be/0iJ312cXiWI.

The show in Ardmore on January 10 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $20-$49.

Other upcoming shows at the Ardmore Music Hall are Southern Rock Night on January 5, The Bowie Birthday Bash with Candy Volcano on January 6, and BVTLive on January 8.

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