Disclaimer: I received two tickets for Ain’t Too Proud through a partnership with the Tampa Bay Bloggers and the Straz Center for the purpose of this review. All the opinions are my own
Bio-musicals and jukebox musicals can be a hit or miss for me. In the bio-musical category, Beautiful tops the list for favorites. (I’ve seen the Carol King’s bio-musical twice. Thank you, Straz!) Ain’t Too Proud, definitely hit all the notes for me and comes a close second in the bio-musical category.
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of THE TEMPTATIONS tells the story of the iconic Motown group, The Temptations. The musical follows The Temptations from their humble beginnings in Detroit to their rise to stardom.
Otis Williams (Michael Andreas), the group’s founding member, narrates The Temptations’ tale based on his book The Temptations bringing Williams’ charisma and vulnerability to life. His wit and charm pulls you into the story while weaving over 30 of The Temptations’ songs and other Motown R&B classics through the fast-paced tale.
The music of Ain’t Too Proud is, of course, one of the show’s biggest draws. Hits like “My Girl”, “Just My Imagination” and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” and “If You Don’t Know Me” feel nostalgic.
The energy and enthusiasm delivered by the entire cast as they perform each chart topping hit creates a toe-tapping immersive experience. I found myself clapping, singing and shimmying along like a wannabe backup singer.
With each number, the audience becomes transported to the early 60s at the Fox Theater or American Bandstand.
The songs beautifully reflect each moment of time in The Temptations musical journey. Along the way, the show explores the group’s personal and professional struggles, as well as the social and political changes of the Civil Rights Movement that took place during their time.
Interpersonal conflicts, clashing egos, addiction, love lost, domestic abuse and racism become some of the ugly battles The Temptations face. Otis struggles to keep the group together while trying to save the lives of the men he loves like brothers.
Much like a Temptation revolving door, each conflict gets resolved by replacing an old member with a newbie Temptation excited and ambitiously stepping into the spotlight. There’s even a bit of comic relief illustrating how the players come and go throughout the group’s history with some returning like a bad penny. At the end of Act 2, Otis mentions that there have been 27 Temptations from 1963 to present day.
Throughout the journey, Otis is reminded of the price he must pay for fame and stardom. “Don’t nothing rewind, but a song”, his wife, Josephine (Quiana Onrae’l Holmes) reminds him over and over. At the end, he finally understands the painful, hard truth of such an adage while adding he would do it all again.
For Motown music fans, Ain’t Too Proud is a must-see. The Temptations’ music will have you dancing in your seats and make you wanna SHOUT.