Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think Of AIN'T TOO PROUD at the Kennedy Center?

Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think Of AIN'T TOO PROUD at the Kennedy Center?

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presents the Berkeley Repertory Theatre production of Ain't Too Proud-The Life and Times of The Temptations in its pre-Broadway engagement.

The five-week Kennedy Center engagement follows the production's critically acclaimed, record-breaking world premiere run at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it became the highest- grossing production in that theater's nearly 50-year history.

With a book by Kennedy Prize-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau, Ain't Too Proud features an iconic score made up of The Temptations' legendary songs including "My Girl," "Just My Imagination," and "Papa Was A Rolling Stone."

Directed by two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff and choreographed by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo, the production will play the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater June 19-July 22, 2018.

Ain't Too Proud is a new musical that follows The Temptations' extraordinary journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. With their signature dance moves and unmistakable harmonies, they rose to the top of the charts creating an amazing 42 Top Ten Hits with 14 reaching number one. Through friendship and betrayal amid the civil unrest that tore America apart, their moving and personal story still resonates five decades later.

The creative team includes Robert Brill (scenic design), Paul Tazewell (costume design), Howell Binkley (lighting design), Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound design), Peter Nigrini (projection design), Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig design), and Steve Rankin (fight direction). Orchestrations are by Harold Wheeler with music direction and arrangements by Kenny Seymour.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Peter Marks, Washington Post: On the basis of what's on view in the Eisenhower, the slick and consistently entertaining "Ain't Too Proud" is surely ready for Broadway, and a couple of the anchoring performances infuse it with enough dramatic life to sustain a 2½ -hour production. The antagonistic partnership between two of the five "classic" Temptations, Otis Williams (played by Derrick Baskin) and David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes), sustains the central tension of the piece, with Baskin serving as the evening's even-keeled narrator. (The musical is based on a 2012 memoir by Williams, the last survivor among the original group members.) Sykes's fiery, egocentric Ruffin is forever chafing at the homogeneity of style and sharing of credit demanded by Williams - a behavioral legacy that may help to explain why, over the past six decades, 24 men have rotated through the group.

Lisa Traiger, DC Metro Theater Arts: Director Des McAnuff, who has a Tony for Jersey Boys and recently put his talents into Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, keeps the story moving so swiftly that the very few moments when a contemplative song comes on, it feels like a relief. Robert Brill's set, with its electronic marquee and red brick backdrop with Peter Nigrini's projections, slides performers on and off on a fast-moving rolling sidewalk and a turntable that allows backstage and side stage glimpses of the singing group in action. The show's star? Hands down the Temptations' songbook, from early standards "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "My Girl," "Since I Lost My Baby," and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" to later hits like "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "Superstar."

Barbara Johnson, BroadwayWorld: Along with Baskin as Williams, the four other original Temptations anchor the production: Ephraim Sykes as mercurial, magnetic David Ruffin; Jeremy Pope as rebellious Eddie Kendricks; James Harkness as honey-voiced Paul Williams; and Jawan M. Jackson as lovable bass Melvin Franklin. Each of them is given multiple moments to shine brightly across a fast-moving two and a half hours. Williams is the last surviving original group member, with 24 men having rotated in and out over the years.

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