by MOLLY BRUSH
When friends Carolyn Anderson, Linda Burton, Sandy Martin, and Suzanne Roberts attended a performance of the musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations at IU Auditorium last June, they noticed a man seated across the aisle from them who seemed to be eavesdropping on their conversation at intermission.
“I think he noticed the four retired ladies enjoying the show,” Anderson, 73, says. The man introduced himself as Ira Pittelman, one of the show’s producers. He explained that the producers hoped to take Ain’t Too Proud to Broadway, and he was in attendance to observe audience reaction, which they would use to refine the production. The women’s enthusiastic response to the first act had caught his eye.
At the end of the evening, the group gave Pittelman a glowing review of the show. He, in turn, made them an unexpected offer.
“He said, ‘If my production makes it to Broadway, would you four like to come see it?’” Burton, 72, explains. When the women told him that they would love to see the show on Broadway but would need a way to get to New York City, Pittelman offered to pay not only for tickets to the show but also for their airfare.
Although the women were skeptical that Pittelman was serious, Roberts sent him an email a short time later. The show went on tour to other cities, and months went by without a response. “During all that time, we’re thinking, ‘No way. This is not going to happen. We’re just old ladies,’” Anderson says.
But Pittelman did reply—and he was true to his word. The show was opening on Broadway in March 2019, and he invited the four women to attend as his personal guests, paying for their airfares and theater tickets as he promised. “To have kept his word shows a lot of character,” Roberts, 71, says.
On March 1, the women saw Ain’t Too Proud for the second time, this time at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre. After the show, they were whisked backstage where, Martin, 69, says, they were “treated like royalty.” Pittelman presented them with Ain’t Too Proud swag bags, and they posed for photos with star Derrick Baskin, who plays Otis Williams, one of The Temptations’ original members.
The women took full advantage of their unexpected opportunity to visit New York City, packing their five-day trip with sightseeing. They made visits to NBC’s Today show, NBC Studios, the National
September 11 Memorial & Museum, and toured Radio City Music Hall where they performed a Rockettes-style kick line on stage. They also attended the Broadway productions of Network, an adaptation of the 1976 film, and the Tony Award–winning musical Come From Away.
But all four agree that nothing topped the thrill of seeing Ain’t Too Proud on Broadway. “We just feel so blessed,” Roberts says.