Energy and excitement surround the Temptations in an irrepressible musical which will keep your toes tapping and your vocal cords vibrating. So what if AIN’T TOO PROUD is a “jukebox musical?” It’s still way too many cuts above the average to matter. AIN’T TOO PROUD is a story told through melody and rhythm, rather than through words. Even if author Dominique Morisseau put words in everybody’s mouth, this is still a tale of musicians doing what they do best – and that’s making music. With music and lyrics from The Legendary Motown Catalog, AIN’T TOO PROUD raises its voice in the unforgettable music that lots of us grew up with, tunes that evoke memories even as they keep us humming and swaying.
Based on the book, “The Temptations” by Temptations founder Otis Williams (with Patricia Romanowski), AIN’T TOO PROUD tells the story of the famous musical quintet that became the top group of its day. From a talented but unknown bunch of Detroit guys with a dream – and a moniker that kept changing – the nascent bunch evolved into Motown’s crown princes, the Temptations. Otis Williams (Marcus Paul James) serves as narrator outlining the evolution of the quintet (sometimes quartet and sometimes bigger and better), with originals Paul Williams (James T. Lane), Melvin Franklin (Harrell Holmes, Jr.), Eddie Kendricks (Jalen Harris), and David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis). There may have been 25 Temptations over the years, but they always managed to preserve the harmony, beat, and fluid moves of the original five.
But the Temptations also rubbed shoulders with lots of other pop musical greats of their era, and some of them found their way into the production, including Berry Gordy (Michael Andreaus), Smokey Robinson (Lawrence Dandridge, Omar Madden), and Diana Ross (Amber Mariah Talley) – with, of course, the Supremes (Florence Ballard/Shayla Brielle G. and Mary Wilson/Traci Elaine Lee). Long- time manager Shelly Berger (Reed Campbell) makes an appearance too. The Thursday opening night audience got a special treat after the show when the still-alive-and-kicking Otis Williams and real-life Shelly Berger visited the cast on stage and addressed the enthusiastic audience. The snappy Otis looked like he still had the energy and verve of his younger counterpart when he congratulated the cast on their work. It was pretty clear that there was a special relationship between the two old-timers and the bouncy and very talented cast members.
The production team was the same as during the earlier production at the Ahmanson in 2018. Robert Brill’s scenic design was relatively simple – but amplified by light years with the projection designs of Peter Nigrini. Director Des McAnuff and musical director Kenny Seymour seemed to be having the time of their lives helming the show, with Howell Binkley’s lighting, Steve Canyon Kennedy’s sound, and Paul Tazewell’s costumes bringing these “oldies-but-goodies” back to resounding life. And let’s not forget choreography by Sergio Trujillo. This is a show with music, dance, and a live orchestra in the wings. If anything, the current productions was more exciting and tuneful than the earlier production – and the audience was wildly enthusiastic.
But the real star of the show was the songs – all 31 of them. Try to sit still when listening to rousing renditions of “Baby Love,” “Papa was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Of course, the onstage “Temptations” aren’t the original group, but they managed to infuse passion and energy into the tunes and did a bang-up job of replicating them. This is a must-see production for all music lovers – and even for those who just want a jolly, joyful evening out. AIN’T TOO PROUD is the perfect holiday show, and this reviewer for one is thrilled that the show has returned.
AIN’T TOO PROUD runs through January 1, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays (no 8 p.m. performance on 12/24/22 and no performances on 12/25/22). The Ahmanson Theatre is located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets range from $40 to $175. For information and reservations, call 213-972-4400 or go online.
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