Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud. Credit: © 2021 Emilio Madrid
National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud. Credit: © 2021 Emilio Madrid

Another biomusical has hit the road and is touring around the country after a successful run on Broadway. One of the last shows of this previous season is the story of The Temptations in Ain’t Too Proud. Starting on Broadway back in 2018, this jukebox musical did have a bit of a rough start before touring due to, you guessed it, the COVID-19 pandemic. However, now it’s off and running.

The musical is based on the book titled “The Temptations” by Otis Williams, who is the founder and currently last surviving original member of the Motown vocal group. Williams also serves as the lead narrator, played by Marcus Paul James, of the story. Throughout the course of the show we witness the trials and tribulations that the infamous group went through. It’s something I was actually fairly surprised by and didn’t know really much about. I had no idea that the group went through so many different members and even name changes. 

The history of the group, at least from the show’s perspective, was a little repetitive. The writing of the book really had a strong start in the beginning with how Williams approached the original Temptation members, their rise to fame and settling into their new lives. However as the show progressed it focused heavily on the fact that the group was a revolving door of members which made the story feel a bit stale. Every few minutes it felt very formulaic; one member leaves, they find a new one, they sing a song. Another member leaves, they find a new one and they sing another song. 

As the show moved through its second act it felt, again very similar to a revolving door except instead of one member leaving, it was one member passing. It just didn’t have that story aspect and with the use of Williams as the narrator it fell into the trap that many bio musicals, and even movies, fall into which is the story being told at us and not to us. 

It’s absolutely more concert-like than actually a story driven musical and that’s the issue I have with it. However you can’t beat the vocals of every single one of these guys. If you enjoy the music of the multi-grammy award winning group, you’re in for a treat then. It really does feature a large variety of their number one classics and beyond. Everything from My Girl to Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone. To be able to pull off all these classic hits means you’re going to need some impeccable talent. 

Thankfully this cast has it with each and every one of them hitting every note, ever step and every beat. Special shout out to Sergio Trujillo who is the choreographer of the show. The way Trujillo was able to really root the dances in the decades they were in helped transport us to that time when Motown really ruled the airwaves. 

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations has some great moments, incredible singing and dances however it falls flat in storytelling. I prefer bio-musicals that really capture the life of someone, or a group of people, and takes us on a journey. Ain’t Too Proud fails to do that with the writing not allowing us as audience members to truly get to know even just a handful of these guys. 

Ain’t Too Proud runs at the Orpheum Theatre through Hennepin Theatre Trust through July 10. Tickets can be purchased by visiting HennepinTheatreTrust.Org.

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