Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.”
“I saw them do a black box rehearsal and I asked the lead producers if I could please be a part of this in some way,” Brooks told Variety on Thursday at the opening night of “Ain’t Too Proud” at the Imperial Theatre. “I told them I think what you are missing is a youthful, black woman on this project. And that is how it came about.”
She added, “I have been very quiet about it, so to be here tonight is very special. The theater has always been a part of my heart as much as this music of Motown. I feel like I really am a person of the ’60s and ’70s, where my spirit is, even though I was born in the ’80s.”
Music lovers of all ages and backgrounds came out in the bitter cold rain to fill the seats at the Imperial. Attendees included Debra Messing, Blair Underwood, Sarah Ferguson, Ron Simons, Melba Moore, Joel Grey, Jill Zarin, Susan Kelechi Watson, Dominique Fishback, James Monroe Iglehart, and Ben Vereen.
The cast, holding bouquets of roses, were brought to tears during the curtain call when playwright Dominique Morisseau and director Des McAnuff took the stage. Morisseau and McAnuff pointed to Motown founder Berry Gordy as well as Supremes legend Mary Wilson and Temptations manager Shelly Berger seated in the front row.
“This is just great. It is hard to explain because so many great things have happened,” Gordy said earlier in the evening. “This is so dear to me because of the struggle that they went through and they still are going strong.”
Nearly 1,000 guests appeared at the massive after-party at Gotham Hall with cast members Derrick Baskin, James Harkness, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope, and Ephraim Sykes arriving to an immediate swarm of delighted fans and friends taking photos.
“Anytime a classic band like this is celebrated, it is a good thing,” said Steven Van Zandt. “It helps carry on the music to a new generation.”