April 13, 2022
Review: Temptations Musical 'Ain't Too Proud' Triumphs with Dazzling Choreography
Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.
The reason jukebox musicals are such crowd-pleasers is the music. They usually contain such easily recognizable tunes that they are hard to resist. That is especially true of the Motown Era – those fabulous songs that came out of the Detroit-based recording company in the 1960s and 1970s. They have already produced one anthology show, "Motown: The Musical," and can be seen as being the genesis behind the megahit "Dreamgirls" in the 1980s. The latest, "Ain't Too Proud," presents the life and times of the Temptations, one of Motown's prized male ensembles, and it's truly a spectacle. All the ingredients of a good musical are there: Triumphs, tragedies, humor, and some dazzling choreography.
American playwright Dominique Morisseau wrote the book, with tunes courtesy of Motown's extensive catalog. It follows the journey of a very young Otis Williams (Marcus Paul James), a Detroit youth heading for trouble with the law; boyhood friend David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis, that voice!); and a veritable revolving door of singers over the course of two decades. Hold on tight as Otis assembles his group, because this show doesn't pause to take a breath.�
Truly, the spectacle here are the dance moves and the voices. And these actors know just how to show us the way the original Temptations brought not only a unique style of harmony, but some synchronized moves as well. Sergio Trujillo won the Tony Award for best choreography in 2019, and this by itself makes the play worth attending, to say nothing of the inspired casting. James bookends the show with his commentary; much needed as the proceedings move incredibly swiftly. The play draws you in and never lets go.
Everyone gets his/her time to shine, notably Paul Williams (James T. Lane), Eddie Kendricks (Jalen Harris), and Melvin Franklin (Harrell Holmes Jr.) as part of the original five members of the group. They're the ones to watch even as new replacements pop up (over a 60-year span; the group still tours to this day). Even the Supremes, led by Diana Ross (Deri' Andra Tucker), makes an appearance in the historic musical montage.
From its humble beginnings at the Berkeley Repertory Company in California to a recent (2019) Broadway run, this national tour was slated to kick off at the Providence Performing Arts Center in July 2020, but COVID-19 postponed the date. Was it worth the wait? The answer is a resounding yes, and if you want to walk away from the theater in the mood to dance and sing, this could be your show.
"Ain't Too Proud" is running through April 17th at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) 220 Weybosset Street, Providence RI 02903. For information or tickets call 401-421-2787 or visit www.ppacri.org.