Review: AIN'T TOO PROUD at Kennedy Center

The Life and Times of The Temptations makes for glorious theatre!

By: Feb. 18, 2024
Review: AIN'T TOO PROUD at Kennedy Center
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The national tour of Ain't Too Proud makes an all-too-brief stop at The Kennedy Center's Opera House through February 18th, and it's a dramatic and musical roller coaster through the heyday of The Temptations, the superstar Motown R&B vocal group.

Ain't Too Proud is a fast-paced history of the group, narrated by the group's founder, Otis Williams (Michael Andreaus, who brings noteworthy vocal and acting chops to the role). Starting with their founding in Detroit in 1960, the show chronicles the group's rise to the top of the charts, featuring recreated snippets from over six decades of live performances.

Joining Andreaus as the original members of the group are E. Clayton Cornelious (Paul Williams), Harrell Holmes, Jr. (Melvin Franklin), Jalen Harris (Eddie Kendricks), and Devin Price (Elbridge "Al" Bryant); Elijah Ahmad Lewis (David Ruffin, who replaced Bryant after the latter engaged in multiple physical scuffles with other band members) completes the lineup that fueled the quintet's meteoric rise.

Review: AIN'T TOO PROUD at Kennedy Center

Complimenting the main characters is a stellar ensemble that includes Motown founder Berry Gordy (Jeremy Kelsey), Smokey Robinson (Derek Adams), Diana Ross (Amber Mariah Talley), Mary Wilson (Traci Elaine Lee), and Florence Ballard and Tammi Terrell (both played by Shayla Brielle G.). The entire company drives this jukebox musical, delivering powerful and moving renditions of such Motown classics as Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, Come See About Me, For Once in My Life, I Can’t Get Next to You, I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, I Wish It Would Rain, Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me), My Girl, Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone, The Way You Do the Things You Do, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, and You Can’t Hurry Love. It's a buffet of music for people who love the classic Motown sound. Unlike many other entries in the jukebox musical genre, the performers aren't simply imitating the artists they portray - subtle changes in the way these oldies are interpreted give them new life, and add an interesting touch to the production. Sergio Trujillo's choreography remains faithful to the dance moves of The Temptations' live performances.

Review: AIN'T TOO PROUD at Kennedy Center Interwoven throughout the music is a back story that is all-too-common in the world of popular music - internal squabbles, conflicts with record labels and management, out-of-wedlock children, shotgun weddings, marital infidelity and domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, suicide and other tragic deaths are all part of the narrative that covers sixty years of recording and touring, and a total of 27 singers that have been a part of The Temptations.

Despite all of the trials and tribulations, the story of "The Temps" is one of perseverance, triumph, and dedication to the music. In the end, Otis Williams is the last of the original Temptations, standing, alone in the spotlight, to put the grace notes on this powerful story. It's a lot to take in, but it's such a rich vein of both musical and dramatic material, that the audience leaves the theatre wanting more.

Ain't Too Proud runs through February 18th at the Kennedy Center Opera House, and is recommended for ages 13 and older. Running time is approximately 2:30, with one intermission. For more information about the Kennedy Center, click here.