Teamwork makes the dream work, but not without facing a few temptations along the way.
The nationwide touring company of “Ain’t Too Proud,” the biographical musical about one of Motown’s great bands, opened a week of performances Tuesday night at the Marcus Performing Arts Center to enthusiastic audiences.
First and foremost, “Ain’t Too Proud” offers plenty of soulful music and jaw-dropping dance moves that made the Temptations popular. Director Des McAnuff and his team have cast performers who are closely related to the most distinctive voices of Time: Elijah Ahmad Lewis as gruff showman David Ruffin, Jalen Harris singing Eddie Kendricks’ sweet falsetto, and Harrell Holmes Jr. as a comforting bass. , Melvin “Blue” Franklin. Incorporating over 30 songs or parts of songs, “Ain’t Too Proud” hits all the expected high points, from the title track to the epic “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”
Fans will have their various favorites in this production; mine was “Just My Imagination”, Kendricks’ swan song with the band.
As for the choreography, Sergio Trujillo won a Tony Award for recreating and evoking the movements of Time, and it was well deserved.
“Ain’t Too Proud” is based on the memoir of Otis Williams, the only surviving Temp and Keeper of the Flame; respected playwright Dominique Morisseau wrote the book for this musical. As Williams, Marcus Paul James is the series’ narrator, taking us through the complicated history of a band that has gone through multiple changes in singers and styles.
As a de facto bandleader, Williams is in the midst of many conflicts, including struggles with Motown head Berry Gordy (Michael Andreaus) over singing socially relevant material from Norman Whitfield (Brett Michael Lockley) .
The Times face ego battles, racism, alcohol and drug issues, wars and cultural upheaval, musical disputes and health crises, but through it all, Williams promotes group unity above all else. Perhaps that’s why, despite Ruffin and Kendricks’ distinctive vocal brilliance, they ultimately had to leave,
While Williams is often the voice of caution or reason, he has his own issues. His young wife Josephine (Najah Hetsberger, who has several terrific vocal moments), calls him out for his failures as a husband and father.
As a show, “Ain’t Too Proud” feels a bit long and talkative to me; although serious, Williams is not the most dynamic character. But I wouldn’t cut a single note from the music or a single step from the dances.
If you are going to
“Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations” continues through April 10 at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, 929 N. Water St. For tickets, visit marcuscenter.org or call (414) 273-7206.