When Brett Michael Lockley returns to Baltimore this week as part of the touring production of the Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud,” it will be a full-circle moment for the Randallstown native.
“I have a huge support system of people who know me and have seen me grow. It is an honor to perform in front of these people,” said the 31-year-old actor who now lives in Harlem.
Although he has been part of the production — playing two characters — since November, the coronavirus pandemic almost ended his acting career.
“I was on tour with ‘Cats’ when everything shut down,” he said. “I had my last performance, and I had no idea when I would be on a stage again. I started to think about other things I could do.”
After close to a year, the theater community began to see things start slowly coming back, according to Lockley. But that meant auditioning virtually and through video submissions. It was new territory for a performer used to auditioning in person.
“With the self-submission tape, you have to decide what you want to sing. I had to set up a ring light in my apartment and perform for my cellphone. If it was a dance audition, it would mean renting out studio,” he said. “You don’t know when or if they would see your video. The process and the amount of work doing self-made auditions is very different.”
But the casting directors for “Ain’t Too Proud” saw his video. He received a callback audition a week after submitting his video audition in May 2021 and booked the show at the end of June.
“This was the first job I booked during the pandemic. I had been auditioning for the show since 2018,” explained Lockley, adding that he previously auditioned unsuccessfully for the Broadway production of the show. “To see these beautiful Black people telling Otis Williams’ and The Temptations’ story, I knew I had to be a part of it.”
Lockley portrays two characters in “Ain’t Too Proud” — Al Bryant, one of the original members of The Temptations, and Norman Whitfield, a writer behind some of the group’s greatest hits, such as “(I Know) I’m Losing You” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”
The characters and material are familiar to Lockley because of his work as a member of the touring production of “Motown: The Musical.”
Because The Temptations were a large part of Motown’s success, there is a lot of overlap between both productions.
“Luckily, because I did ‘Motown: The Musical,’ I was quite familiar. I had so much information and so much knowledge. It prepared me to live in the world of the show,” he explained.
Ron Legler, president of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center/Hippodrome Theatre, is excited to welcome Lockley back to Baltimore.
“Brett is such a wellspring and an abundance of talent,” Legler said. “It’s fantastic to have him back in his hometown to perform at the Hippodrome and share his gifts with friends, family and the larger community.”
It was Lockley’s older brother, Eric, who was indirectly responsible for getting him involved in performing. Lockley recalled being 7 years old and watching his brother take dance classes at the long-closed Deve’s Christian School of Performing Arts in Randallstown. One day the dance school was short one male dancer and a teacher asked Lockley whether he wanted to perform.
“One year they were doing ‘The Nutcracker’ and they needed another boy. I said ‘yes,’” he recalled.
He immediately took to dance and continued with it throughout high school. He graduated from George Washington Carver Center in Towson and then the University of the Arts in Philadelphia before moving to New York City in 2013.
Lockley’s parents have been huge supporters of his career, he said. His mother, Sharon, is an auditor for Baltimore City, and his father, Robert, works as an insurance adjuster.
Returning to Baltimore this week is a full-circle moment for Lockley, who was scheduled to sing the national anthem at the Orioles game Monday night.
“I’m so excited to come back to Baltimore to do the show. This will be my third national tour coming to Baltimore,” he said, citing “Cats” and “Motown: The Musical” as the others.
Lockley said this stop in Baltimore will allow him to hopefully see friends and family, possibly visit his high school and get a crab cake.
“There’s nothing like a Maryland crab cake,” he lamented. “I don’t always have a lot of time to see all my friends and family. Luckily, they come to the show.”
“Ain’t Too Proud” will appear Tuesday through Sunday at the Hippodrome Theatre.
This article is part of our Newsmaker series, which profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at firstname.lastname@example.org.