Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations – Summary, Review (with Spoilers)

Ain't Too Proud The Life and Times of The Temptations - Playbill
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Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, more so is the Otis Williams story, but that doesn’t take away from you wanting to sing and the amazement of the dance moves.


Venue Imperial Theatre
Venue Address 249 West 45th Street, NY, NY
Director(s) Des McAnuff
Writer(s) Dominique Morisseau
Date 3/6/2019
Genre(s) Musical, Drama, Biography
Good If You Like The Music Of The Temptations & Motown Era

Theatrical Personalities Which Cause Raucous Laughter

An Overview Of The Lives Of The Temptations

This Isn’t For You If You Were Expecting This To Be Equally About All The Temptations And Not Otis Williams Featuring The Temptations
Total Time 2 Hours, 15 Minutes
Noted Performers
Otis Williams Derrick Baskin
Eddie Kendricks Jeremy Pope
David Ruffin Ephraim Sykes
Paul Williams James Harkness
Melvin Franklin Jawan M. Jackson
Dennis Edwards Saint Aubyn
Barry Gordy Jahi Kearse
Tammi Terrell Nasia Thomas

The Venue

The Imperial Theater

Like any location, you’ll feel there isn’t enough room and packed like sardines. However, the stage itself is quite nice with a conveyer belt within the floor which moves in items, even people, and lighting effects which help the fact the stage has a turntable built in, but not much else.

Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations Show Summary

From 1963 to the reunion tour in 1982, to Otis Williams finding himself becoming the last original member of the group he started, we follow the vast saga of The Temptations. Mind you, all from Otis Williams’ viewpoint, with him breaking out commentary on the other guys’ lives, making sure you know this is his take on things. But, even with Otis being front and center, acting as a rather tame narrator, with every step, every familiar song, you are reminded why The Temptations are not only one of the biggest R&B groups, in terms of sales and members, but are legendary in the music industry.

Collected Quote(s)

“Don’t nothing rewind but a song.”

Highlights

Nearly Every Member Gets Their Due

The performers who act as the original members of The Temptations.
Clockwise: Otis Williams (Derrick Baskin), Melvin Franklin (Jawan M. Jackson), David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes), Eddie Kendricks (Jeremy Pope), and Paul Williams (James Harkness)

While the entire show is from Otis’ point of view, often he is simply the narrator. For whether it is David Ruffing doing splits and his well-known theatrics, Paul’s solos, Melvin being a comic relief, Eddie hitting his high notes, and more, no one feels forgotten. Even later members like Dennis get enough so that you not only take note of the character, but also the performer.

Now, granted, some only get that one special moment, like Paul towards the end of his part of the show. However, if you take note of each performer, even when they are singing backup, you can see a slight competition going on. Be it who can hit the moves harder, more swiftly, or sometimes who can get the bigger pop. Mind you, not just from Eddie, David, and Dennis. The others also make it clear that while perfection is their goal, that they are a group, they are still individuals as performers. All of which have different strengths.

David Ruffin

Like many, Leon’s performance as David Ruffin in the 1998 bio-musical has long been one of the best depictions of a musical figure I can think of. So, naturally, Ephraim Sykes had his work cut out for him. Let me tell you, Sykes gives Leon a run for his money. From splits to crowd interaction, he was brilliant. He is one of the main reasons I’d say you would need to see this live instead of rewatching the 1998 movie.

Heck, I’d argue, similar to Ariana DeBose, from Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, this will likely be a launch pad for Sykes, and he will be the breakout, beyond stage performances, from Ain’t Too Proud.

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

You Eventually Adjust To The Chance In Voices

This issue of all jukebox musicals is you likely grew up on one voice, or harmony, and whether you get performers who mimic the original, like in The Cher Show or like in Summer, just do their own thing, there is an adjustment period. For Ain’t Too Proud, there is a happy medium.

Now, at first you may think the men are trying to gear their vocals as close to the original as possible, but you come to realize that is just them warming up. Eventually, while they stick closely to the styling you know, they branch out just enough to put their stank on it but not enough to upset purist. For whether it is how Jeremy Pope handles Eddie Kendrick’s “Just My Imagination” or Saint Aubyn’s handling of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” it is in the tone you expect, and sometimes, that is all that matters.

Criticism

The Musical Lacked Emotional Depth

To me, jukebox musicals have a hard time being more than fun or jokey, so when they get serious, it just doesn’t hit like it should. Which stinks for Ain’t Too Proud for whether a minor death, in the musical, like Tammi Terrell or Otis’ son, it doesn’t hit you in the gut like you feel it should. It is sad, and you feel sorry for those involved, but it doesn’t stir your emotions. Something I wouldn’t even say comes from knowing Otis and Motown’s story, but just because there is more focus on jokes, dancing, and the music than really crafting characters who truly seem human.

On The Fence

It’s Hard To Not Have Mixed Feelings About This Being About Otis Featuring The Temptations

Honestly, the .gif still holds up. For while you understand that as the surviving member, who else could tell the whole story of The Temptations, Otis is also one of the dullest members. At least, he is portrayed to be. While he and Barry Gordy may have made plans and he had to wrangle in the madmen he had sing lead, there isn’t anything that remarkable about Otis. Arguably, there are times when Baskin doesn’t even feel a part of the minute to minute show and is someone who just comes from off stage, provides commentary or a transition, then disappears.

That is, until he has a solo towards the end of the show that’ll make you take notice of Baskin’s voice – which largely goes understated for most, if not the entire, show.

Overall: Positive (See Live)

Ain't Too Proud The Life and Times of The Temptations - Stage at Imperial Theater

Arguably, if you can’t afford a trip to New York or the ticket, the 1998 movie will do just fine. However, if you can, you need to see this live. You don’t even have to be right up on the stage to enjoy this production. You may get Sykes touching you, maybe throwing you a handkerchief, but I don’t know if that’s worth an extra $50. But what really drives the positive label is the nostalgia. Like any and all jukebox musicals, you are sent back to a time when you were first introduced to the music, and while you can’t physically go back in time, the performers try their hardest to amplify old memories. Leaving you satisfied and desiring to listen to every track you have on your way home. Especially since now you’ll have the ability to sing and pretend you can do the dance moves.


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PerformanceSynopsisRatingShow Information

The Cher Show

Logo for The Cher Show

The Cher Show strangely is more noteworthy for its jokes, dancing, and costumes, than the singing or story.

Mixed (One & Done)

Venue Neil Simon Theater
Venue Address 250 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019
Director(s) Jason Moore
Writer(s) Rick Elice
Date 11/6/2018
Genre(s) Musical
Good If You Like Cher

Sequined Costumes

Corny Jokes

When Background Dancers Are More Interesting Than The Singing

When The Singers Try To Mimic The Voice and Sound of the Original Artist

Total Time 2 Hours and 30 Min (with a 15-minute intermission)
Noted Performers
Star Cher Stephanie J. Block
Lady Cher Teal Wicks
Babe Cher Micaela Diamond
Sonny Jarrod Spector
Georgia (Might Also Be Lucille Ball) Emily Skinner

How Would You Rate This?

Negative Mixed Positive

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Nearly Every Member Gets Their Due
85 %
David Ruffin
95 %
You Eventually Adjust To The Chance In Voices
80 %
The Musical Lacked Emotional Depth
65 %
It’s Hard To Not Have Mixed Feelings About This Being About Otis Featuring The Temptations
75 %
New Jersey native Amari Allah has been writing reviews, in a "Media Advisor" capacity since 2011 and has been touching upon television, movies, books, live performances, video games, and more ever since. Using a fusion of his varied knowledge of entertainment, partly gained from being a Communications major in college, his love for visual and written media, as well an ever-evolving respect for both creators and the consumers they sell to.