January 16, 2022

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‘I Assume We’re Cousins?’: ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ Performers Notice Hyperlink

‘I Think We’re Cousins?’: ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ Performers Realize Link

Earlier than the curtain comes down every evening on “Ain’t Too Proud,” the Broadway jukebox musical that follows the rise of the R&B group the Temptations, the solid turns round in unison and lowers down to 1 knee because the lights go as much as illuminate the present’s 17-piece band.

After enjoying greater than two hours of Motown classics, the guitarists, the drummers and the string part wave because the viewers applauds.

In the course of the curtain name on Feb. 28, 2020, the day Matt Manuel made his Broadway debut within the flashy position of David Ruffin, he bowed alone, then along with his fellow Temptations, all carrying gleaming white jackets and ties. When he turned and knelt down to offer the musicians the highlight, he thought to himself vaguely that the violist had cool hair.

Two days later, he acquired a message from that violist, Andrew Griffin, who had been within the band for the reason that present opened in 2019.

“So…I believe we’re cousins…?” Griffin wrote to Manuel in an Instagram message.

Manuel responded with the requisite variety of exclamation factors for such a discovery: “Omg sure we’re cousins!!!!!!!!”

In reality, they’re second cousins as soon as eliminated, in keeping with the household tree lately drawn by Griffin’s mom. (She’s obsessed with family tree.) Manuel’s great-grandmother is Griffin’s grandfather’s older sister, with 14 years separating the 2 siblings.

The belief was a delight and a consolation to Manuel, 29, who, in January 2020, arrived in New York from Detroit after he had been solid as Ruffin, changing Ephraim Sykes. It was a frightening transfer throughout the nation: He left shortly with solely two suitcases — the remainder of his stuff remained in his dad and mom’ storage — and it was his first time dwelling independently, away from his household.

He had at all times heard that Griffin’s facet of the household eagerly supported their kin nevertheless they might.

“Wherever you’re at, they may take you up in a heartbeat,” stated Manuel, whose skilled performing debut was enjoying Marvin Gaye on tour in “Motown: The Musical.” “When you’ve acquired household, you’ve acquired all the pieces that you simply want.”

Griffin, 35, who grew up in Pittsburgh and moved to New York about six years in the past to advance his music profession, was shocked to study {that a} new main member in “Ain’t Too Proud” was a blood relative.

“I knew nothing of him — completely nothing,” Griffin stated. “I noticed him onstage every time they flip round and the musicians wave. That’s about it.”

If it wasn’t for a video of the curtain name on Feb. 28, they could by no means have realized it. Manuel and his household had missed an earlier reunion, and the one scheduled for 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic.

In February 2020, Manuel’s mom, Amiesha Williams, traveled to New York Metropolis to see his debut, and the day after, she posted a YouTube video of the curtain name on a household Fb web page used to plan reunions.

“You understand how proud mothers are,” Manuel stated, “they only brag.”

The put up garnered clapping emojis, encouraging remarks after which a remark from Griffin’s mom, Linda, mentioning that her son was within the middle of the video enjoying the viola. She didn’t understand who Matt Manuel was and why Williams had posted the video of him within the first place.

“How have you learnt him?” Linda Griffin wrote within the feedback part.

Williams replied the subsequent day: “I’m sorry I fell asleep so I’m simply seeing this. Matthew is my son.”

As feedback flew forwards and backwards in regards to the specifics of their family tree, Manuel was onstage crooning into the microphone as Ruffin, the unique lead voice of “My Lady.” Griffin was not far-off, enjoying his viola beneath the stage. When Manuel returned to his dressing room, he noticed a textual content from his mom: He had a cousin within the band and he ought to go meet him.

“I’m like, ‘What does he appear to be?’” Manuel stated. “And she or he’s similar to, ‘His identify is Drew and he performs the viola.’”

Outdoors the stage door, Manuel signed autographs for a throng of giddy Broadway followers, glancing again now and again to search for the viola participant. When Griffin walked out, the 2 launched themselves tentatively. “I believe we’re cousins,” Griffin stated. Two followers holding a poster stared at them blankly, Manuel recalled.

The pair did the pure factor to do if you uncover a member of the family: schedule a lunch date. They made plans for the next week, however quickly, the airborne virus that had been spreading the world over had producers worrying. Then, on March 12, lower than two weeks after Manuel’s debut, the business shut down.

“Possibly we should always postpone,” Griffin remembered saying.

In the course of the lockdown, Griffin fled to North Carolina to hunker down along with his girlfriend and her household; Manuel went again to Detroit, considering the pause within the manufacturing could be a very good alternative to drive again the remainder of his stuff in a U-Haul.

The shutdown stretched on and on, protecting performers like Griffin and Manuel out of a daily job and perpetually questioning after they would get a return date. Griffin frolicked composing, one thing he didn’t at all times have time to do with a full efficiency schedule. Manuel grieved the lack of a relative, frolicked with household and tried to reconnect with the a part of himself that wasn’t a performer, at all times desperate to entertain these round him.

The cousins fell out of contact, their discovery outdoors of the stage door seeming like one other period, the place followers mingled freely with actors after exiting a tightly packed theater.

However final month, the present took again its place on the Imperial Theater. The preliminary days have been all work: Manuel, who lives in Harlem, tried to get his physique accustomed to doing again flips, splits and microphone tips for seven reveals every week. Griffin, who lives in Williamsburg, had 4 days to take a seat again in entrance of his music stand with the remainder of the band and get songs like “You’re My The whole lot” and “Get Prepared” again into their muscle reminiscence.

“Happening the road for the primary day of labor, I began to effectively up a bit bit,” Griffin stated. “It was like nothing had actually modified — there have been nonetheless jokes and stuff written on our stands.”

They hadn’t gotten a second to spend time collectively till late final month, when a member of the present’s manufacturing employees had a birthday celebration and so they have been each invited.

“Now let’s choose up the place we left of,” Manuel stated. “Really go eat a meal and speak and, you realize, gossip.”

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