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Now Opening: ‘Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations’ on Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |


The Temptations jukebox musical is already drawing a crowd

Even if there are those who think we’ve already had a few too many, most audiences get excited about the prospect of a new jukebox musical arriving on Broadway. Last spring brought the biography Summer, based on the life of Donna Summer, and this winter we’ve had The Cher Show, based on the life of Cherilyn Sarkisian (otherwise known as…well, Cher). More are continually in the works (Tina, based on the life of Tina Tuner, opened in London last year to great reviews and will be part of the 2019-2020 Broadway season), proving that producers have no intention of escaping the temptation to keep such a winning formula going. And now there’s a new contender in the jukebox musical sweepstakes: Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, opening March 21st at the Imperial Theatre. The Temptations were once singled out by Billboard as “the greatest R & B group of all time,” and two-time Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff has been wisely hired to help shape the story, just as he did with Jersey Boys – which wasn’t just another jukebox musical, but the granddaddy of them all, running as it did for eleven years. There is no doubt the hope is that lightning will strike twice.

From left to right: Derrick Baskin, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope, James Harkness and Ephraim Sykes in ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

From left to right: Derrick Baskin, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope, James Harkness and Ephraim Sykes in ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Ain’t Too Proud has taken a long, circuitous route to Broadway. After a world premiere at Berkeley Rep, it went on to Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre at the Center Theatre Group, Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Critics praised not only the music, culled from the Temptations’ extraordinary repertoire, but also the show’s book by Dominique Morisseau, a recent 2018 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.” The Los Angeles Times called Ain’t Too Proud “a force almost as irresistible as any of the Temptations’ greatest hits. The energy, the attack, the smoothness, the masculine cool – when the men are snapping, swaying and slicing the air with their limbs, there is no defense.”

Much like the New Jersey quartet that made up the Four Seasons, The Temptations consisted of five street kids, this time from Detroit. Now known as “the classic five,” they were: Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. Discovered by Berry Gordy (the founder of Motown), he signed the quintet to his new label. Not only did they harmonize like a heavenly choir, but they had dance moves that made their singing something to see – and they dressed for success, too. They dominated the charts over a lengthy period of time, with an astounding 42 top 10 hits – 14 of which reached number one. They would go on to sell tens of millions of albums, which have made them one of the most successful groups in the history of popular music.

But of course, the ride to the top was a bumpy one, not only through their own difficult times keeping it together on stage and on the home front, but also attempting to do so during one of the most turbulent eras for urban America: the 1960s and ‘70s. But they still managed to churn out hit after hit, with such notable songs as “My Girl,” “Just Imagination” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” A total of thirty of them are listed in the Playbill, which gives you some idea of what’s in store for you if you purchase a ticket.

The choreography for Ain’t Too Proud is by Sergio Trujillo, who has almost made creating the dances for jukebox musicals into his own cottage industry. Among his credits are the recent Summer and On Your Feet; the Tony Award Best Musical winner Memphis; All Shook Up and Jersey Boys. As Peter Marks wrote in his review of the out-of-town engagement in Washington D.C.: “The music, of course, is divine, but it’s Sergio Trujillo’s choreography, full of dazzling splits and hypnotically synchronized unisons, that lifts this jukebox musical above the ordinary.”

The Temptations are played by Derrick Baskin, James Harkness, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope and Ephraim Sykes. To see them in action, singing and dancing up a storm, snag deals on Ain’t Too Proud right here on ShowTickets, which is now at the Imperial Theatre, 249 W 45th Street. 

 

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