HCA Healthcare/Tristar Health Broadway at TPAC presents
Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations
Andrew Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org
March 21 – 26, 2023; Limited seats remaining for the run
If I could rewind more than a song, I’d rewind Tuesday evening’s opening night show at TPAC. The national tour of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, includes some 31 hit songs pulsating through the night inside Jackson Hall. The Temptations sing and groove the evening spectacularly away, twisting your heartstrings and wearing you out with an abundance of generosity not seen from a show in a long time. It is a sensationally rousing production that boggles the mind: how do these actors keep this stamina going for two-and-a-half hours? How do the five leads remember all of the intricate, fantastic moves? Ain’t Too Proud ‘s stunning choreography (Sergio Trujillo) turns the real-life Temps’ more subtle movements (remember vintage TV clips?) into powerfully athletic and speedy spectacle. Sit back, dance in your seat and relish the moment. The Temps are great from the start. It may have been fun to witness their attempts to get in sync from rough beginnings, but no serious matter, these guys can dance. And when they proudly announce they will be called the Temptations, you’re with them all the way.
‘Ain’t Too Proud’ … It’s All In the Music
The Temps released a slew of Motown hits in the 60s and 70s. They put out 26 singles before striking gold with their first Number One in 1965 (“My Girl”). Three other Number Ones followed over the decade: “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Just My Imagination” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” Numerous other top 100 hits paved their journey to the top and worldwide fame finally arrived through a never-say-die effort, a commitment to the group as a whole and 53 songs in total. The Temp’s accolades include three Grammys, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and induction into the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
With the lights, sound, costumes, sets and sheer relentlessness of it all, Ain’t Too Proud may make your head spin. In a formulaic nod to the Broadway hit, Jersey Boys (which worked beautifully), you follow Otis’s narration easily. The five original Temptations are remarkable: Otis Williams (the deftly commanding Michael Andreaus); Melvin Franklin (a skillful and richly voiced Harrell Holmes, Jr.); David Ruffin (the wildly gifted Elijah Ahmed Lewis); Eddie Kendricks (a deeply mesmerizing Jalen Harris) and Paul Williams (a zesty E. Clayton Cornelious) — from rough beginnings to hard-edged endings resulting in group replacements. We see legendary record executive Berry Gordy (Jeremy Kelsey — a Fisk University grad) enlist the hit-maker Smokey Robinson (Omar Madden) and then Norman Whitfield (Devin Price) to pen hits for the boys. We witness The Supremes (Amber Maria Talley as Diana Ross; Brittny Smith as Mary Wilson; Shayla Brielle as Florence Ballard) slink, sparkle and shine. In addition, we learn of each Temp’s personality and more. Broken relationships, affairs, drinking, drugs, demons, deaths and child loss are all parts of the landscape. The cast is stellar, and an understated, outstanding performance comes from Quiana Onrae’l Holmes as Otis Williams’ long-dejected wife, Josephine.
‘Ain’t Too Proud’ is the Stuff of Legends
Getting to the top in the music industry takes relentless work and sacrifice and it’s all here on display. While four of the original Temps have passed away, Otis Williams — whose book, The Temptations is the show’s source material — is still very much active. At 81, he continues to guide new evolutions of the Temptations onward. Williams himself delighted the audience at TPAC during the curtain call by coming out on the stage. He shared a few, albeit mighty words, thanking everyone for paying their hard-earned money to see the show. That humbleness may be why Mr. Williams is the last man standing; it’s the stuff of legends — and it’s the backbone of Ain’t Too Proud.