“Art, theatre, dance, music has always been therapy for me,” Ephraim Sykes, star of Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of the Temptations told Playbill on opening night.
It’s also his joy. And his performance as Temptations David Ruffin has led him to a self-realization he never expected: “It’s a dream that’s so big I couldn't have dreamt it. Only God could have done this. Only God could have dreamed that big and create something that allows me to be my fullest self — to the point where I didn't even know that I had that in me.”
But Sykes stepped foot on the path from a young age, starting out as a tiny mouse and a toy soldier “all those little things you get to be when you're a little boy in The Nutrcacker when they don’t have enough boys,” he reveals in the video above. Movies like The Wiz, in particular Michael Jackson’s performance as the Scarecrow, profoundly impacted him.
So it’s no surprise that the triple threat has burst into his own in a role that serves as an homage to the consummate showman. “I really have to do my best to channel David,” says Sykes. “David was just a fun guy, he was the life of the party. He had the most confidence and swag.”
But more than stellar vocals and nailing the splits, Sykes digs into Ruffin’s hurt. “I was able to study a man who I grew up loving and idolizing and learned so much about him and what he actually went through that created the sound. It is his pain he went through that makes the sound that you hear,” he says.
The more Sykes connects with Ruffin — injecting more of himself to the role — the more he shines.
In the video above, Sykes divulges the musical theatre song he’ll never get sick of (hint: it’s from a show he’s been in), the person he wants to work with next (hint: a comedian turned auteur), and the prescribed title of the show about his life.