Oscar E Moore

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AIN’T TOO PROUD the life and times of THE TEMPTATIONS

March 30th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore

For the dedicated fans of the “Classic 5” Temptations it’s all about the music.  The Motown sound of the 60’s.  On this point AIN’T TOO PROUD the life and times of The Temptations really delivers.  And delivers.  And delivers.  With a sensational cast.  Their style, their sound, their smooth moves and their unique look is on view at the Imperial Theatre for all to cheer.

But don’t look too deeply for much of an insight into their lives in this Readers’ Digest condensed and abridged version of their back story that takes a back seat to all their glorious sounds and songs.  There is a lot to digest as the group goes through the classic pitfalls of success.  The clash of personalities, drugs, alcohol and being on the road touring over the decades.

We get sound bites of over 30 top tunes including “My Girl” “Shout” “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and “Poppa Was a Rollin’ Stone”  just to name a few.  You may find yourself bouncing along in your seat and singing along, the presentations being so infectious.

Moving along at a speed much faster than a vintage LP recording thanks to a turntable and conveyor belt that seem appropriate for this well-oiled assembly line product.

Almost all of the creative powers that be for this latest juke box musical are identical to those of JERSEY BOYS, a phenomenal success:  Director Des McAnuff, choreographer Sergio Trujillo whose vigorous high octane motorized dance moves begin to become repetitive, sound designer Steve Canyon Kennedy and lighting designer Howell Binkley.

The new addition is Dominique Morisseau as the writer of the straightforward and at times melodramatic book.  It seems her distinct style should have had more of a chance of success as she hails from Detroit where the group started.  But alas her wings seem to have been clipped.  Perhaps for lack of time.

For the record, the “Classic 5” Temptations include Otis Williams (Derrick Baskin) our low key narrator ingratiating himself throughout; humbly praising himself as the leader of the pack.  In fact, the production is based on his 1988 memoir THE TEMPTATIONS by Otis Williams with Patricia Romanowski.

Then there is Paul Williams (James Harkness) who has trouble dealing with fame and fortune becoming an alcoholic and ultimately committing suicide.  Melvin Franklin (Jawan M. Jackson) he of the deep bass voice that is used to add some badly needed comic relief.  Eddie Kendricks (Jeremy Pope) he of the sweet falsetto and charming smile who wows us in Act II when he takes over as lead singer in a duet with Diana Ross (Candice Marie Woods).

And finally David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes) who has an ego to surpass all egos and a jump split that is gasp inducing as the lead singer of the group in Act I.  He thinks he is a star and he is indeed a star and even when fired from the group will come back to take over the mic even when barred from the theater.  David’s story is the most interesting with the group and I only wish that the leading up to it were quicker as it is a long evening at the Imperial.  But AIN’T TOO PROUD is about the group; not their individual egos.  It’s about the music.  Still going strong.

As Otis Williams relates to us in the terrific grand finale The Temptations became the number one Rhythm and Blues Group – having had 24 different guys in the group over the years – keeping this famous Brand Name alive and well.

NOTE:  Eagerly awaiting the cardiovascular TEMPTATIONS exercise tape by Sergio Trujillo and original cast album.  Two and half hours.  One intermission.


Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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