AIN'T TOO PROUD - THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS at the Kennedy Center - They Were Dancing in the Seats!!


I do not believe I have ever started a review of a musical with the writer of the BOOK. But the heralded playwright Dominque Morisseau deserves credit for the tough task of writing the background story of the history of the outstanding rhythm and blues group "The Temptations". I have seen three of her plays: DETROIT '67 and SKELTON CREW at Baltimore Center Stage, and SUNSET BABY at Rep Stage and she is a talented individual. She does a masterful job here.

The other individual I want to point to is Choreographer Sergio Trujillo who has been on a hot streak. After his amazing work on Broadway's ON YOUR FEET (Tony nominee), he has been honored for his work on IN THE HEIGHTS and CARMEN: AN AFRO-CUBAN MUSICAL (both at Olney Theatre Center). The dance moves for the Temptations are dazzling. You may have seen the original group's signature moves, but these pale in comparison to what Trujillo puts his actors through.

Kudos especially to Director DES McAnuff who had previously won a Tony for directing the story of "The Four Seasons, JERSEY BOYS. McAnuff knows how to tell a story and if you liked JERSEY BOYS, you will LOVE his presentation of the life and times of the Temptations. He uses history of the '60s, '70s, and '80s as background and Peter Nigrini's terrific projections to help tell the story. And what a story it is.

The Temptations have been around for 55 years and coincidentally the latest incarnation (there have been 24 group members) were featured on the PBS July 4th Celebration concert in front of the Capital. I was surprised they did not mention the show at the Kennedy Center during the concert. They've had 42 Top Ten Hits and 14 #1 songs. There are 31 songs on the program. I guarantee you will remember almost all of them.

The only remaining member of the quintet is its founding member Otis Williams and the story is based on his memoir. Williams is played by the talented Derrick Baskin who not only sings and dances but is the narrator. It is Williams who hires the original group who he patterned after the male group "The Caddilacs". But it was Berry Gordy, Jr. (Jahi Kearse), the mastermind of the Motown sound and Motown Records who started the "Detroit" sound in 1959. I highly recommend a visit to the "Hitsville USA Museum" where the studio can be visited. The show focuses on the time period from the 1960's to 1974.

Gordy kept a tight control of his music groups. He emphasized the dance moves, their way of life, the costumes, the move to be a "cross-over group", and made sure singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson (Christian Thompson) composed most of the Temptations' music. I liked the way the play demonstrates Williams' disagreements with Gordy that I did not recall from the hit musical MOTOWN THE MUSICAL.

There are three members of the group who stand out; David Ruffin (the amazing Ephraim Sykes), Eddie Kendricks (the superb Jeremy Pope), and the famous bass singer Melvin Franklin (the talented Jawan M. Jackson).

There are also women portrayed. The great Tammi Terrell (Nasia Thomas) who died tragically at the age of 24 and THE SUPREMES (Candice Marie Woods as Diana Ross).

Williams does not shy away from the trials and tribulations that the group endured from drug addiction, alcohol addiction, womanizing and his own demons regarding his divorce from his wife Josephine (Rashida Scott) and his relationship with his son Lamont (Shawn Bowers) who tragically dies at a young age in a work accident.

There is great set design by Robert Brill which includes a turn table and a moving runway at the front of the stage.

There are terrific costumes by the great Paul Tazewell, superb lighting by Howell Binkley, and superb sound by Steve Canyon Kennedy.

But the key to the show is the music and the superb orchestra led by Music Director/Conductor/Keyboard/Arranger Kenny Seymour.

At the curtain call, the curtain rises to reveal the orchestra and in unison, the cast turns to the rear of the stage towards the musicians and they all take a knee out of respect.

AIN'T TOO PROUD started at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and will play Los Angeles and Toronto before an expected trip to Broadway. It continues at the Kennedy Center until July 22, 2018. For tickets, call 202-467-4600 or visit


Next at the Kennedy Center is the musical THE COLOR PURPLE which runs July 31 to August 26, 2018.

HAMILTON continues until Sept. 16.

Broadway Center Stage line-up for the Kennedy Center offers:

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Oct. 24 to 28, 2018

THE MUSIC MAN Feb. 6-10, 2009 (with Norm Lewis)

THE WHO'S TOMMY Aug. 25 -28, 2019

Olney Theatre Center has EXTENDED Leonard Bernstein's musical ON THE TOWN to July 29, 2018.

Arena stage has the world premiere of DAVE running July 13, to August 19, 2018.

CAMELOT set box office records at the Shakespeare Theatre and has EXTENDED to July 8.

Remember Signature Theatre's FREE Annual Open House on August 5, 2018 which lasts from noon to 8:30 p.m.

The musical PASSION starts their new season running August 14 to Sept. 23, 2018.

Would you like to attend a free staging of GODSPELL starring the cream of local high school students at the Lyric Opera House on July 26 at 6 p.m.? It will be only Act I and last about an hour so it would be great to take young people to see. Todd Pearthree is directing. The Modell Lyric is presenting its inaugural Music Theatre Summer Camp for students in grades 9 to 12. Musical Director is Mandee Ferrier Roberts. Acting and dance instruction is by the Ballet Theatre of Maryland and CJay Philip. The students are having master class presentations by Beth Leavel, Nancy Opel, Bob Cuccioli, and Harriott D. Foy. For information, call 410-900-1150.

On July 26 and July 26, you can see the Broadway cast of NEWSIES thanks to the Fathom events at your local theater. It is terrific. Visit

Speaking of NEWSIES, I recently saw a splendid production at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in New Deal, New Jersey. They included female "newsies" which is only appropriate since 10% of "newsies were females. The equity house seats 500 and it's a beautiful venue only five minutes from Asbury Park, New Jersey and the beach. It was solid entertaining production with amazing dancing. I highly recommend checking it out.

They are presenting Constantine Maroulis as Berger in HAIR August 15 to 19.

Andrea McArdle will play "Miss Hannagan" in ANNIE THE MUSICAL November 2 to 18, 2018.

For tickets, call 732-531-9106 Ext. 14 or visit

The National Theatre has announced its news season starting with the World Premiere Prior to Broadway BEETLEJUICE THE MUSICAL THE MUSICAL THE MUSICAL Oct. 14 to Nov. 18, 2018. To follow are BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL, SCHOOL OF ROCK, FINDING NEVERLAND, A BRONX TALE, STOMP, and BAT OUT OF HELL THE MUSICAL.

Celebrating 75 Years of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Musical, a free exhibition now open at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, shines a spotlight on the iconic musical-producing pair seventy-five years after their first collaboration, Oklahoma!, debuted.

With digital displays, scenic designs, and other treasures, this exhibit examines the innovations that led to the Rodgers and Hammerstein revolution on Broadway. Some highlights of the exhibition include:

  • A video wall featuring the ballet dream sequence in Oklahoma! and documents from the Agnes de Mille's papers, preserved here in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, as well as archival video from the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization. The video illustrates De Mille's choreography notes as the dance is performed.
  • Carousel's set designs and sketches: Carousel simultaneously contrasts the beauty of the New England scenery with the inherent savagery of life in the village. Jo Mielziner's scenic designs depicted the breathtaking landscapes that would hang behind the often terrible actions performed on the stage.
  • Broadway revivals for Oklahoma! were produced on Broadway in both 1969 and 2002 - for both productions Al Hirschfeld created caricatures for the The New York Times which are now preserved in the Library's Billy Rose Theater Division.
  • Department window display photos; during the original run of the show, press agents attempted to market both the tour and the cast recording through window displays in the storefronts of shops across America. Some of these displays were photographed and are now preserved in our collections.

Additionally, the exhibition contains over seventy items including promotional material from all Broadway productions, photos from the original Carousel production, and costume designs.

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From This Author Charles Shubow

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