Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, at the Imperial Theatre, is a toe-tapping, hand-clapping jukebox musical that follows the life of the cornerstone Motown R&B quintet from poverty to riches. It brings to life the Temptations’ timeless hits, including “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” “I’m Going to Make You Love Me,” and a dozen-odd more.
The musical was inspired by the memoir of Otis Williams, who cofounded the Temptations in 1960 and is the only surviving original member. Derrick Baskin plays Williams and also serves as narrator. Jawan Jackson plays bass singer Melvin Franklin, James Harkness plays Paul Williams, and Jeremy Pope perfectly channels Eddie Kendricks. Rounding out the “classic five” is Edwin Sykes, who is perfect as David Ruffin, the Temptations’ lead singer from 1964 to 1968.
Director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo are the dynamic duo who brought us the hit Jersey Boys. McAnuff seamlessly weaves the story, enabling the audience to empathize with the trials and tribulations of the individual Temptations, both the “classic five” and later members like Dennis Edwards. Trujillo provides perfectly coordinated dance moves that mimic the original Temptations’ stage choreography. The book, by Dominique Morisseau, imbues the story with authenticity, humor, and emotion that fully engage the audience. And we can’t forget the original Motown songwriters, most prominently Smokey Robinson and Norman Whitfield.
Ain’t Too Proud also includes the Temptations’ contributions to the 1960s civil-rights and antiwar movements. It’s not only wonderfully entertaining; it reminds us of the power of the music that came out of the Motown studios. This is a highly recommended show for the entire family.