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Review: AIN'T TOO PROUD at Paramount Theater

The Life and Times of The Temptations

By: Jan. 25, 2023
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The cast of AIN'T TOO PROUD. Photo by
Matthew Murphy

The road to fame is long and hard. AIN'T TOO PROUD guides you through the journey of The Temptations as they reach for the stars. The music is soulful, and the moves are sublime. The journey itself is full of potholes and obstacles, and the show hits a few bumps along the way. The show is a fun night of entertainment but missed some key opportunities to be so much more.

The story of The Temptations begins in Detroit with Otis Williams who after testing the boundaries of the law vows to commit to singing and making his way to a better life. Through trial and error, he finally assembles a group that begins to have some local success. They encounter some trouble with an agent, distractions, and undergo multiple changes in both members and names of the group. Now connected to Motown, the group really takes off. With their success also comes a new stream of troubles from dealing with the stress of being on the road, quarrels within the group, and the pressures of fame. Small problems become big, and the group faces some tough decisions. Through all the adversity, they continue to make beautiful music and develop their own style of showmanship.

The cast of AIN'T TOO PROUD is tight. You can tell that they are having a good time and have a genuine chemistry with each other. Michael Andreaus as Otis Williams carries the weight of responsibility for the group. He often struggles to balance the needs of the group with the desires of the individuals. The burden is large, and makes you feel the pain of it. Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin is a firecracker. He lights up the stage like an explosion that starts with his voice made of gold. Even when Ruffin's antics are causing harm to the group, you don't want him to leave the stage. Eddie Kendricks was the group member that never wanted to give up on anyone, and Jalen Harris's performance as Kendrick was heartfelt and touching. Kendrick's heart over head philosophy comes shining through. E. Clayton Cornelious as Paul Williams was a touch of reality. He masterfully displayed how addiction can be hidden and disguised until it reaches a breaking point. The scene where he first teaches choreography to the group was one of the funniest moments of the night. Harrell Holmes Jr. as Melvin Franklin is a sneaky one. With eyes as deep as his voice, he reflects all the highs, lows, tension, and love within the group. The bass is the foundation of a vocal group, and Franklin was the embodiment of that foundation.

The production of AIN'T TOO PROUD was beautifully designed to enhance the story without getting in the way. Scenic Design by Robert Brill used a mix of panels, screens, and projections to move the actors from place to place without cumbersome set pieces. This plan also allowed Brill to fill the space to the full height of the stage making the show seem even bigger. Howell Binkley's lighting design was often subtle which made the moments even bigger where the lighting changed the very tone and tenor of the moment. The biggest impact of the production, however, was the work of Sergio Trujillo as choreographer. With moves that contained both simplicity and intricate details, each song was as much a delight to watch as to hear.

With dazzling performances, snazzy moves, and soulful sounds AIN'T TOO PROUD is sure to be a night of good entertainment. Where the show falls short, is in the storytelling of the unique members of the group. In an attempt to cover so many years and so many events, the show inevitably skims the surface of the story instead of diving deep. We hear of all the usual struggles of a group from that era, but very little of what set them apart. The emotional connections don't really hit a significant level until the last fifteen minutes of the show. In many ways, the show depicts The Temptations just as the world saw them from the outside rather than letting us get to know them from the inside. While the show will put a smile on your face and a song on your lips, it could have been so much more.


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