“Ain’t Too Proud Review -The Life and Times of the Temptations with Thrilling Performances and Staging

The story of how, against all odds, five young black men on the streets of Detroit rose to fame in a predominantly white world as the best R&B group of all time

L-R: Derrick Baskin, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, Ephraim Sykes and James Harkness in “Ain’t Too Proud,”  Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Ain’t Too Proud—the Life and Times of the Temptations” opened Friday August 24th at the Ahmanson Theatre in the Music Center and runs through September 30th. It’s the story of how, against all odds, five young black men on the streets of Detroit rose to fame in a predominantly white world as the best R&B group of all time (Billboard magazine 2017). After getting discovered by Berry Gordy (Jhai Kearse) and signed to his brand-new label, Motown Records, it took them 24 tries before they finally had a hit song and reached groundbreaking heights! The rest is history!

The thrilling story of how the group met and how they rose, is about brotherhood, family, loyalty and betrayal, and reveals varied elements they faced—drug abuse, absent parenthood, pain and loss. It’s also about how personal and political conflicts threatened to tear the group apart as the United States fell into political and civil unrest during the 1960s and ‘70s.

L-R: Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness and Derrick Baskin in “Ain’t Too Proud,”  Photo by Matthew Murphy.

From the get-go, with Derrick Baskin in the leading role as Otis Williams, the multi-talented and versatile cast enthralled the audience with a seamless and electrifying stream of dancing, singing, and acting performances. To name a few—Jawan M. Jackson (as Melvin Franklin) with his marvelous bass, Jeremy Pope (as Eddie Kendriks) with his mellifluous falsetto, and Ephraim Sykes (as David Ruffin) whose slick footwork and fabulous voice helped propel the groups amazing rise to the top. Williams’ long neglected wife, Josephine (Rashidra Scott), had a moment of great singing that left one wishing for much more from her. Other excellent vocalists warranted more time in the spotlight!

The show just rocks from beginning to end and the entire cast is to be congratulated for their performance—the extent of their musical theater ability cannot be overstated!

L-R: Christian Thompson, Saint Aubyn, Ephraim Sykes (center), Jeremy Pope, Derrick Baskin and Jawan M. Jackson in “Ain’t Too Proud,” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

“Ain’t” is set to a beat of groovy musical numbers, including “Baby Love,” “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” the titular “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and many more, all rendered by vocalists displaying a wide and varied style and range. Virtually all song numbers include slick, perfectly coordinated and exciting dance routines, choreographed by Lawrence Olivier-thethe winner Sergio Trujillo. Adding pzazz were the performances by Diana Ross (Candice Marie Woods) and the Supremes (Florence Ballard as Nasia Thomas, and Mary Wilson as Taylor Symone Jackson).

Tony Award winning director Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) and the entire staging team, listed below, deserve special mention for effectively and dramatically capturing all scenes purely in shades of white to gray and black throughout, and portraying a drab Detroit environment of the time. All color is introduced through excellent costuming. Stage scenes, actors, and props shift and glide smoothly in all directions, and as The Temptations travel and gain world recognition and adulation, names of different countries flash across the screen showing their progression to the top.

Audience appreciation and excitement was palpable throughout, with some unable to contain themselves—singing, clapping, tapping their feet, and even standing up! At shows end Baskin announced to resounding applause that founder of The Temptations, Otis Williams, as well as Berry Gordy, Mary Wilson and Shelly Berger were in the audience!

This is a show deservedly heading for Broadway and I urge you to see it before it leaves Los Angeles—it’s one of the absolute best and a sure winner!

CAST: Derrick Baskin as Otis Williams, James Harkness as Paul Williams, Jawan M. Jackson as Melvin Franklin, Jeremy Pope as Eddie Kendricks and Ephraim Sykes as David Ruffin. “Ain’t Too Proud” also features Esther Antoine, Shawn Bowers, E. Clayton Cornelious, Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., Taylor Symone Jackson, Jahi Kearse, Jarvis B. Manning Jr., Joshua Morgan, Saint Aubyn^, Rashidra Scott, Nasia Thomas, Christian Thompson, Curtis Wiley and Candice Marie Woods.

Book by playwright Dominique Morisseau (based on Otis Williams’ original book, The Temptations), Directed by Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) with choreography by Lawrence Olivier-Award winner Sergio Trujillo.

The creative team: Robert Brill (scenic design), Paul Tazewell (costume design), Howell Binkley (lighting design), Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Peter Nigrini (projection design), Edgar Godineaux (associate choreographer), Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig design) and Steve Rankin (fight direction). Orchestrations are by Harold Wheeler with music direction and arrangements by Kenny Seymour.

Performance Days and Times:

Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. No performance on Mondays. Exceptions: Added 2 p.m. performance on Thursday, September 27. No 1 p.m. performance on Sunday, September 30.

Intermission and Run Time: “Ain’t Too Proud” runs two hours and 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Ticket Prices: $30 – $160 (Ticket prices are subject to change.) Tickets for “Ain’t Too Proud”are available online

Or by calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at 213.972.4400, and at the Center Theatre Group Box Office at The Ahmanson Theatre, located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, 90012.

 

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