Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review of Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations

Photo by Matthew Murphy
The immensely entertaining Broadway-bound musical Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations explores the storied history of legendary Motown group the Temptations. It’s chock-full of Tempts classics, from the flawless R&B/pop gems of their early years to the hard-edged socially conscious tracks of their psychedelic soul era in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. The talented cast performs these timeless tracks with flair, enthusiasm and tons of soul. 

Ain’t Too Proud is an exhilarating and bittersweet celebration of the Temptations and their amazing musical legacy. Award-winning playwright and Detroit native Dominique Morisseau wrote the musical’s book, which is based on founding member Otis Williams’ memoir Temptations. The memoir—which Williams co-authored with Patricia Romanowski—functions as both an autobiography on Williams and a history of the group.

Williams is the sole surviving founding group member, and the musical is told primarily from his vantage point.  He was the Temptations’ de facto leader and often served as the glue that held the group together. Williams is played by the charismatic stage and screen actor Derrick Baskin (Annie, Marshall), who turns in a superb performance. The other cast members are equally strong in their respective roles.

In addition to showcasing the Temptations' many career triumphs and milestones, Ain’t Too Proud also touches on some of the group’s lowest points—such as the bickering and backbiting among group members; drug and alcohol abuse; outsized egos; creative battles with Motown head Berry Gordy; and the prima-donna antics of the tremendously gifted but mercurial frontman David Ruffin.

Ain’t Too Proud boasts several show-stopping numbers that were amazingly performed and choreographed. The performers had audience members singing along with Temptations classics such as “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” “I Can’t Get Next To You” and “Papa Was a Rollin' Stone.”  And Morisseau does a great job at holding the audience’s attention between musical numbers with her sharp, cleverly written dialogue.

The musical is directed by two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy) and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo. In addition to Baskin, some of the other cast members include Ephraim Sykes (David Ruffin), Jawan M. Jackson (Melvin Franklin), James Harkness (Paul Williams), Jeremy Pope (Eddie Kendricks), Saint Aubyn (Dennis Edwards), Jahi Kearse (Berry Gordy), Christian Thompson (Smokey Robinson) and Candice Marie Woods (Diana Ross).

Ain’t Too Proud recently wrapped up a successful five-week run at the Ahmanson Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles and is set to play on Broadway early next year. The stellar production makes for a thoroughly rewarding theatergoing experience and is a definite must-see for devoted Temptations fans and lovers of musicals.

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