PPAC presents Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations, written by Dominique Morisseau, directed by Des McAnuff and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. This hit musical follows the tumultuous journey of this highly popular band from the streets of Detroit in 1960 to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, becoming the best Rhythm & Blues band ever. As one of the most successful male, African American vocal groups of the ‘60s, they were highly influential in the evolution of R&B and soul music. That’s quite the claim to fame for a band that has seen 27 facelifts over its span. They survived substance abuse, rocky relationships, racism, and the deaths of fellow bandmates. With their unique choreography, sensational wardrobes and extraordinary harmonies, they climbed to the top of the charts with 42 Top 10 Hits — 14 reached number one.
At PPAC, their tale is wittily told as we are taken through the history of how they met, and the conflicts they faced with family, brotherhood, loyalty and betrayal, evolution, civil unrest, love, and jealousy. You’ll want to sing along to the foot-tapping groove of the band’s many beloved hits, too many to mention.
The national tour of Ain’t Too Proud stars Michael Andreaus (Otis Williams), E. Clayton Cornelious (Paul Williams), Jalen Harris (Eddie Kendricks), Harrell Holmes, Jr. (Melvin Franklin), and Elijah Ahmad Lewis (David Ruffin). Lead man Andreaus is captivating whether he’s singing, dancing or cleverly narrating. You’ll be blown away by the sounds and moves of the others too, especially when Lewis lets loose. Of course we expect these front men will be excellent in their roles, so it’s always nice when less-featured players stand out with their amazing vocals and agility. Shout out to Derek Adams, Brian C. Binion and Reggie Bromwell for making it look so fun and easy up there with their fancy footwork and spot-on harmonies.
It’s not just about the music though. “These groups had a hand in ending segregation,” says Andreaus of the ‘60s music era. “We stand on their shoulders. They made the way for us to do what we do today in a mainstream sort of way.” And what a pleasure it is to watch them do what they do. There’s this sort of rising action as things start off a bit slow, build steadily, burst open, and the production ends with a fun dance party we truly feel a part of.
Hats off to scenic designer Robert Brill for impressive set changes, with backgrounds that flow effortlessly through space and time. You’re never conscious of the transitions from scene to scene with each simple yet beautiful backdrop. You will notice, however, the interestingly captivating moving pictures as these are presented. Adding to the cohesive magic is the creative team of Paul Tazewell (costume design), Peter Nigrini (projection design), Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig design), Edgar Godineaux (associate choreographer), John Miller (music coordinator), Harold Wheeler (orchestrations) and Kenny Seymour (music supervision and arrangements). Together, these folks deliver a spectacular production.
PPAC presents Ain’t Too Proud through January 28. For more info, visit ppacri.org/events or call (401) 421-ARTS.