Sifiso Mazibuko on living up to temptations

An Inspirational Story
Credit Johan Persson

The Temptations are a group that needs little introduction. Famously known for their moving Motown music, and with an array of Grammys under their belt, it felt natural that a musical around their story would be produced one day.

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations is a 2018 jukebox musical with music and lyrics by The Temptations and the production is based on the book by Otis Williams with Patricia Romanowski.

The musical portrays the success of the Temptations singers, Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and David Ruffin.

Angela Sharda speaks to Sifiso Mazibuko, who plays Otis Williams, on the challenges faced, his highlights and why audiences should come and watch this production.

Q. Tell us about the story behind the musical.

A. Everyone gets introduced to Otis Williams quite early in the show. He takes us on this journey, introducing the major players in building the group and becoming The Temptations. Within the show, you will see the group become successful, you will see them struggle with fame, and you will see them go through hurdles.

There is resilience in Otis’s story that you will find inspirational – this was a young man in the 1950s, from Texas; he had a dream to become a singer and his passion for music was his drive.

Q. Talk us through the character you play.

A. I play Otis Williams, who narrates the extraordinary story. I take you on the journey of Otis’s life, and we experience everything together. We find out that Otis has been the torchbearer for this group. However, along the way, there have been ups and down, and sacrifices were made.

Q. What have your highlights been so far from playing this character?

A. One huge highlight has been meeting the real Otis Williams – that was a huge moment for us all as a company. He’s an amazing man who is still in love with music and an endearing champion of other musicians.

Another highlight was meeting the manager of the group, Shelly Berger. He has been the manager for The Temptations for over six decades – it was terrific sitting with him and listing to the real-life stories about the group. Although we have books, TV and documentaries – it’s a different experience when you sit with someone who knew the group, personally and can tell you about a particular memory they shared with them.

Q. Tell us about opening night and your experience of the show so far.

A. Opening night was fantastic – both Otis Williams and Shelly Berger, who manages The Temptations, attended the opening night.

It’s been an incredible ride for us all so far – we have enjoyed the gift that the show is, and it is bringing us all together again in the theatre community.

Q. What challenges have you encountered from playing this character, and how did you overcome them?

A. The show is dance-heavy, so physical challenges stretch us as performers. My journey as Otis Williams is quite emotionally heavy, so it is important to pace myself through the week. We do eight shows a week, and the ability to endure the show and do it well is the challenge of the show. The show is high-energy – the dance numbers are set up as a performance as if The Temptations are performing on a concert tour. Each number pops like that, and doing that for two-and-a-half hours each time is exhausting. The show is a challenge, but it’s a welcome challenge. It’s always great to get stuck into something that pushes you out of your comfort zone and stretches you much more than you have done in the past.

Q. Why should audiences watch this production?

A. The show is a piece of history. The Temptations as a group influenced so much – they are still going strong, six decades later. As an institution, they are as strong as when they started. We forget their achievements’ influence and success – it’s truly inspirational. If you have a passion for music and want to learn about the group, this is a must-watch show.

Otis’s story is about hope and resilience and what can happen when you chase your dreams. The show makes for a perfect night of dancing, laughing, singing, and crying – all in one!

The musical is on at the Prince Edward Theatre and is booking until 7 January 2024.

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