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Theater Review : Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations

The Temptations, one of the most significant R&B groups, have their story brought to life on stage in Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. After a successful Broadway run and a tour across the US, the show has returned to the world-renowned Kennedy Center. I saw the show during the first Kennedy Center run in 2018 and was eager for a second viewing.

Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations is directed by Des McAnuff and written by Dominique Morisseau. The show revolves around the 1960s era of the Temptations, as seen through the eyes of Otis Williams, the group's leader. It features Michael Andreaus as Otis Williams, E. Clayton Cornelious as Paul Williams, Harrell Holmes Jr. as Melvin Franklin, Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, and Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin.

While I've seen The Temptations miniseries numerous times and read books on the group, seeing Ain't Too Proud was a real treat. One of the first things that stood out to me was writer Dominique Morisseau's decision to give more information on Otis's backstory. In the past, I've judged Otis as an arrogant diva; however, after seeing the play, I understood more of the motivation behind his behavior.

Andreaus was a joy to watch in the lead role, serving as our narrator. The rest of the actors that make up the group all have moments to shine.  Harrell Holmes Jr. nails Franklin's iconic bass voice, Jalen Harris brings flair to Eddie Kendrick's signature falsetto, and E. Clayton Cornelius gives off brother vibes to Paul Williams. However, the highlight of the cast for me is Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin. 

While Lewis doesn't necessarily possess the same grit in his singing that Ruffin had, he makes the song his own. Two signature Tempts songs, "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," truly showcase Lewis's singing style. Over thirty songs make up the soundtrack, including almost all of The Temptations' signature hits. Among the musical numbers in the play, my favorites were "You're My Everything" and "Just My Imagination," which showcases Jalen Harris's smooth falsetto.

If I could give one slight criticism about Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, it would be the same criticism I had with the miniseries. The later members of The Temptations are given little focus. Dennis Edwards, the lead singer during the group's psychedelic funk and disco periods, deserves his own storyline. Also, there is no mention of Ali-Ollie Woodson, who replaced Dennis Edwards and sang lead on "Treat Her Like A Lady," one of the group's biggest hits from the 1980s."

Nevertheless,  Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations is a delightful musical. With winning musical numbers and a great cast, Ain't Too Proud: The Life Times of The Temptations is highly recommended. 

Final Grade: B+


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