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 Address||249 West 45th Street, NY, NY|
|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|
|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 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.
“Don’t nothing rewind but a song.”
Nearly Every Member Gets Their Due
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.
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.
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.
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)
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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The Cher Show strangely is more noteworthy for its jokes, dancing, and costumes, than the singing or story.