Harrell Holmes Jr. had a fascination with The Temptations since he was seven years old when growing up in Saginaw, Mich.
“It was when VHS tapes were a thing. I was going through my grandparents' stuff in Saginaw and I saw this VHS tape and I popped it in to the player."
It was the 1998 NBC Temptations miniseries on NBC. "Seeing these guys in silver suits" well . . . it was a monumental moment in his life. "I thought it was the coolest."
In the 1960s classic lineup – Otis Williams, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin, were the vocal group originals from Detroit.
Holmes plays Franklin, the baritone voice of the Temptations in the Broadway touring musical "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations" at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts opening Tuesday, May 9 to Sunday, May 14.
Before joining the touring cast a year and a half ago, Holmes had his own history with the Temptations. Decades before, after watching the Temps movie "over and over," he announced to his mother that he wanted to sing the group's hit "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" for his third-grade talent show. And he did.
"The kids didn't get it, but the parents were wowed," he remembers.
But it didn't stop at that. He started his own group called The Little Temptations. "We performed throughout Michigan and people ate it up. I did all the singing," he recalls.
With an obvious talent, his parents Jackie and Harrell Holmes Sr. and Harrell Jr. moved to Los Angeles soon after he competed in the junior division of the CBS show “Star Search” when he was 11.
"I think that experience was what really propelled me forward," he recalls.
That was in 2004. It was three years later he'd find himself singing in front of Stevie Wonder, also a Saginaw, Mich., native, and winning a $30,000 Stevie Wonder Scholarship to the Hollywood Pop Academy in L.A.
At 17, he auditioned for FOX television's "American Idol," going back to his roots singing his rendition of "Ain't Too Proud To Beg." He made it to Hollywood to sing for the show, but was eliminated during preliminary rounds.
But his first introduction to musical theater was at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles. Seeing the Temptations musical before its Broadway opening in 2018 would be life changing when a friend, who knew his obsession with the group, took him to the L.A. premiere for his birthday.
"I am not going to lie. I'm thinking, 'Temptations and musical theater? How's this going to be?' There was a feeling of nervousness but also a feeling of 'How did I not know about this?' "
He said he was blown away by the show.
"I immediately thought, 'I have to be in this show!' and literally six months later my agent at the time got me an audition."
But it was a job two years in the making.
"Going back and forth to New York from L.A.; I probably did it four or five times. Getting the role meant so much to me not only because I loved them since I was a kid, but because they were such a staple in American music, especially in the Black community," he says.
The musical takes audiences on the journey of the Temptations – how they met, how they rose to the top of the charts, and their ups and downs as men and as a group.
"It does tell the raw stories, the addictions. I think what really makes the story so engaging is that there are these songs that are so happy, 'My Girl,' 'Just My Imagination,' and then you get a chance to see this other side of them – that they were real human beings that went through real things. Young men in their 20s trying to figure it out but also being pop stars."
Based on Otis Williams's memoir, Holmes says one of the highlights of his time with the show was talking to Williams . . ."for three hours and the memory he has is impeccable and the stories." Williams is now 82 and the last of the original Temptations.
When the show opened on Broadway in 2019, it was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and won for Best Choreography.
Holmes says his experience playing Melvin Franklin has been nothing short of "amazing."
After his Broadway touring role is over, Holmes says he's hoping to work on getting television and film roles.
"Life has always been crazy and unpredictable for me, so I'm not going to say no to anything. I'll continue to work and audition and prepare and we'll see what's next. I'm excited myself to see what's next."
(Watch video of "Ain't Too Proud" Broadway Cast on "Jimmy Fallon" below)
"Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations" is at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, May 9 through Sunday, May 14. 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. 2 p.m. Saturday. 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $35 to $130. Info at arshtcenter.org or (305) 949 6722.