Broadway Dallas welcomes home Dallas native Traci Elaine Lee in the smash hit musical, Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations.
By LaToya Henry
From community theater to selling out shows on a national tour, the audience screamed as the first female actress graced the stage in style. It’s none other than Traci Elaine Lee, as she magically portrays several roles in the production Ain’t Too Proud: Life and Times of The Temptations. Opening night for this Dallas native was surreal.
“This is home. I remember coming to see shows touring at Fair Park. And now it’s my first time touring here in Dallas.”
She was so excited to have her mom in the audience for opening night. “Last night felt amazing. The energy, just knowing my family was out there. My mom invited everybody to come and see the show. The adrenaline was rushing through my veins.”
We first see Traci on stage as Johnnie Mae Matthews, the Godmother of Detroit Soul and the Temptations first manager. If you know the story of the Temptations, then you know Johnnie Mae did not play about her money and leaves the Temptations with absolutely nothing. Traci so eloquently nailed this role before transforming into the beautiful and soulful, “Black excellence” as she describes her character, Mary Wilson, one of the founding members of Motown’s most successful female groups, The Supremes. “Baby Love is my favorite song by them” as we both broke out in a two-part harmony, singing the lyrics and snapping our fingers. Traci’s voice is powerful, unforgettable and a perfect depiction of the Motown sound from the 1960’s.
Born and raised in the DFW area, Traci was introduced to community theater at a very young age. Her dad was a local bass player and her mom, Denise Lee, was an actress. Traci vividly recalls attending rehearsals with her parents for a Christmas production and assisted as backstage hands. Traci quickly embraced and fell in love with the process of the production. She gained a deep appreciation for theater and by the age of 9, she was in her first play. Lee attended summer camp from age 9-18 with the WaterTower Theater Company in Addison and graduated from Garland Independent School District.
For Traci, her “WHY” stems from the lack of Black people in the industry.
“There weren’t many Black faces around when I was coming up, so it’s important for me to be that face on the stage for the next generation.”
Traci had a few words of advice for aspiring actors in the DFW area. “Learn everything about everything you want to do. Whether it’s a leading role or ensemble, you help tell the story. Some of the best performers are in the ensemble versus lead roles. You help tell the story. Never stop finding ways to tell a story.” And when auditioning, “You must have fun. Don’t concentrate on the role and find that WOW moment. Don’t take anything for granted and enjoy that moment.”
With mental health being a topic of discussion in the Black community, Traci says it’s important for her to take at least 30 minutes every day for herself. She enjoys spending time with her pandemic puppy, going to the gym, journaling, and talking walks. She loves listening to music, especially the Motown sound. “My Girl, because I’m a huge Smokey Robinson fan, and “I Can’t Get Next to You” are my favorite Temptation’s songs.”
One highlight for Traci during this tour was meeting Otis Williams, the only living original Temptations member. “We met Uncle O three times; he chose to be a part of our production company. He still tours, he came to our first rehearsal in October. He came to Atlanta, which was our biggest show. And he also came out to Detroit to see us. Just to be able to tell this story was awesome.”
Now, being from Detroit, I had to ask about my hometown and her visit to the Motown Museum. “The audience showered us with love. There are so many pockets of personal connection. I’ve been through Detroit years ago and had the opportunity to visit Hitsville USA now for the second time. It meant so much to me and I know so much more about the history.”
Traci has an extensive acting portfolio, she was a part of the National tour Beautiful, Off-Broadway she played in Safeword, Select Regional she was in Dreamgirls, In the Heights, Fortress of Solitude (Dallas Theater Center). So, what’s next for Traci? Enthusiastically, she isn’t worried about what’s next as she explained, “Whatever will happen will be. What’s next will find me. Trust the unknown and have that faith.”
Traci Elaine Lee, the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area is rooting for you, and we are so proud to watch you live out your dreams.
Make sure to purchase tickets to see Traci and the entire cast of the Broadway musical AIN’T TOO PROUD – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS*, at the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas until Sunday, September 18. Tickets are available online at BroadwayDallas.org and by phone at 800-982-2787. Also, follow her on IG: Tracelaine.
*Featuring the Grammy® winning songs and Tony® winning moves, AIN’T TOO PROUD is the electrifying new musical that follows The Temptations’ extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With their signature dance moves and unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts creating an amazing 42 Top Ten Hits with 14 reaching number one and being voted the greatest R&B group of all time by Billboard Magazine in 2017. The rest is history — how they met, the groundbreaking heights they hit, and how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the United States fell into civil unrest. This thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal is set to the beat of the group’s treasured hits, including “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and so many more.