Ain’t Too Proud Review – The Life and Times of the Temptations

L-R: Ephraim Sykes, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope, Derrick Baskin and James Harkness in AIN'T TOO PROUD - Photo by Matthew Murphy

Energy and excitement surround the Temptations in an irrepressible musical which will keep your toes tapping and your vocal cords vibrating. So what if AIN’T TOO PROUD is a “jukebox musical?” It’s still way too many cuts above the average to falter. This is a story told through melody and rhythm, rather than through words. Even if the up-and-coming book author Dominique Morisseau put words in everybody’s mouth, this is still a tale of musicians doing what they do best – and that’s making music. With music and lyrics from The Legendary Motown Catalog, AIN’T TOO PROUD raises its voice in the unforgettable music that lots of us grew up with, tunes that evoke memories even as they keep us swaying.

L-R: Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness and Derrick Baskin – Photo by Matthew Murphy

Based on the book, “The Temptations” by Temptations founder Otis Williams (with Patricia Romanowski), AIN’T TOO PROUD tells the story of the famous musical group that became the top seller of its day. From a talented but unknown group of Detroit guys with a dream – and a moniker that kept changing – the nascent bunch evolved into Motown’s crown princes, the Temptations. Otis Williams (Derrick Baskin) serves as narrator outlining the evolution of the quintet, with originals Paul Williams (James Harkness), Melvin Franklin (Jawan M. Jackson), Eddie Kendricks (Jeremy Pope), and David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes).  There may have been 28 Temptations over the years, but they always managed to preserve the harmony of the original five.

L-R: Derrick Baskin, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, Ephraim Sykes and James Harkness – Photo by Matthew Murphy

But the Temptations also rubbed shoulders with lots of other pop musical greats of their era, and some of them found their way into the production, including Berry Gordy (Jahi Kearse), Smokey Robinson (Christian Thompson), and Diana Ross (Candice Marie Woods) – with, of course, the Supremes (Florence Ballard/Nasia Thomas and Mary Wilson/Taylor Symone Jackson). The Friday opening night audience got a special treat after the show: the real-life Otis Williams, Berry Gordy, and Florence Ballard just happened to be in the audience. The snappy, straw-hatted Otis rose, waved, and looked like he still had the energy and verve of his younger counterpart.

L-R: Christian Thompson, Saint Aubyn, Ephraim Sykes (center), Jeremy Pope, Derrick Baskin and Jawan M. Jackson – Photo by Matthew Murphy

Robert Brill’s scenic design was relatively simple – but amplified by light years with the projection designs of Peter Nigrini. Director Des McAnuff and musical director Kenny Seymour seemed to be having the time of their lives helming the show, with Howell Binkley’s lighting, Steve Canyon Kennedy’s sound, and Paul Tazewell’s costumes bringing these “oldies-but-goodies” back to resounding life. And let’s not forget choreography by Sergio Trujillo. This is a show with music, dance, and a live orchestra in the wings.

But the real star of the show was the songs – all 31 of them. Try to sit still when listening to rousing renditions of “Baby Love,” “Papa was a Rolling Stone,” “My Girl,” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Of course, the onstage “Temptations” aren’t the original group, but they managed to infuse passion and energy into the tunes and did a bang-up job of replicating them. This is a must-see production for all music lovers – and even for those who just want a jolly, joyful evening out.

SPLASH SELECTION

AIN’T TOO PROUD runs through September 30, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays (with added performance on Thursday 9/27/18 and no 1 p.m. performance on Sunday, 9/30/18). The Ahmanson Theatre is located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets range from $30 to $160. For information and reservations, call 213-972-4400 or go online.

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