“These themes and experiences are all just as real to the UK as they are to America”: Kyle Cox on Ain’t Too Proud at Prince Edward Theatre
Kyle Cox is an actor currently starring as Paul Williams in Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations at the Prince Edward Theatre. While training at the Arts Educational School in London, he appeared as a dancer in Moulin Rouge and as Mr Krabs in The Spongebob Musical. Since graduating, he has appeared in the ensemble of ELF at The Dominion Theatre. He will also be joining the cast of Crazy for You as Wyatt at the Chicester Festival Theatre come 11th July 2023.
The Upcoming caught up with Cox about his experience preparing for the show, his own musical preferences and his favourite member of the Temptations.
How did you get started in musical theatre?
I was going with my mum and sister, because my sister had an audition for a show that was going on. I was waiting in the waiting area with my mum and this lady was doing rehearsals in the reception which I was watching. She came over, picked me up and put me in a place and said, “Right, I need an extra person for this show. We’re doing a panto” and from that I didn’t look back, I carried on doing shows, joining in, going to class every week.
Were you a Temptations fan before you were cast in the musical?
Yes, I was! I used to listen to them growing up, so I would classify myself as a fan. Not a die-hard fan, but I was a fan.
There are so many beloved music groups out there that don’t have musicals made about them. What is it about the Temptations and/or their music do you think lends itself particularly to Broadway and the West End?
I think it is mainly down to the stature of the group. They accomplished so much as a group and did so many amazing things for the black community alongside Motown that I think them being a number one group in the history of rhythm and blues – it makes sense for a musical to be made about them. Their lives and stories are so intricate and detailed that it’s a real honour to be able to portray that. Especially as black men up on the stage, it is an honour to be able to represent these strong men and show their real-life stories and the struggles they had to go through to get to where they did.
Did you read Otis Williams’ memoir in preparation for the role? And if so, in what ways would you say the musical differs from the book?
I did read the book before the role, and I carried on reading the book through the rehearsal process to keep myself up to date as much as possible. I think the difference between the book and the musical is that the book is so real and so personal in the retelling of his life story, because that’s what it is – his life story. That’s what I think the difference is, it’s the fact that the gritty truth is in the book. Of course, it is a biased opinion as he is talking about all of his mates but it is still the truth and the honest fact about what happened to him.
Obviously, Ain’t Too Proud is about the lives of the Temptations, including the hardships they faced as black men in the US in the 60s during the height of the civil rights movement. Given the show is thus firmly grounded in the black American experience, do you think the significance of these themes has changed when transposing it to the UK?
I honestly don’t think so because I feel like the experiences they were going through are still so true to what is going on in the UK as well. I feel like these themes and experiences are all just as real to the UK as they are to America. Obviously, some things are different, like terminology and the way things are done, but overall, I feel the themes are very similar and they are real in the UK. People that see the show can understand and connect, reflect on the world around them and the country we’re in going through the same things.
You play Paul Williams in the show, known as the dancer of the group. Do you have a particular passion for dancing and, if so, how did that start?
I do have a passion for dancing. I think dancing is probably my favourite out of the three different things we do in the show. I just think it’s the best, really. It all started for me back when I got into the industry. I didn’t do singing lessons or acting lessons, but I was always in a dance class. That’s what got me into the industry, really.
Is there any particular Temptations story that resonates with you?
I think that the story of Paul Williams really resonates with me. He was the dancer of the group and, playing the character every night means it has a special place in my heart – for him as a person and for what he did for the group.
Do you have a favourite genre of music to listen to? And does that differ from the genre you most enjoy performing?
I don’t really have a favourite. I’ve never had a specific genre that I listen to solely, I listen to lots of different genres of music.
If you had to choose one show that would be your dream show to perform in, what would it be?
I think my dream show to perform in would be Jelly’s Last Jam. I think it’s a beautiful musical and that is what I would like to come back and be in.
What do you hope audiences take away from Ain’t Too Proud the musical?
I just hope they come, they learn, they have a good time and they walk away knowing a little bit more about the Temptations than when they walked in. To have a good time and to enjoy being there as much as we enjoy being there.
Photo: Johan Persson
Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations is at Prince Edward Theatre from 31st March until 1st October 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here. Read our review here.