February 21, 2024

By Constance Garcia-Barrio

FROM LEFT: Harrell Holmes Jr., Jalen Harris, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, E. Clayton Cornelious, and Michael Andreaus from the Nationwide Touring Firm of Ain’t Too Proud.
Picture: ©2023 Emilio Madrid

“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: The Life and Instances of the Temptations,” a Broadway present that opened January 3 on the Academy of Music, blasts out of the gate and skyrockets. The musical, based mostly on “Temptations,” a e-book by former group chief Otis Williams, spotlights turning factors for the “tall, tan, terrific” quintet whose songs topped the charts for years.

The Temptations’ unique singers included Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, and David Ruffin. Otis Williams, (Michael Andreaus), who based the group and held it collectively via contentious occasions, narrates the story. He units the stage for honesty when he speaks of “The Means You Do The Issues You Do,” the Temptations’ first top-20 tune:

“You bought a smile so vivid
You already know you would’ve been a candle
I’m holding you so tight
You already know you would’ve been a deal with”

“The lyrics ain’t precisely by Langston Hughes,” Williams says.

That tone of salty truths flavors the entire present. One group member says of David Ruffin, who’d begun utilizing medication, that “his eyes seemed like two cherries in a glass of milk.”

Neither the e-book nor the musical appears to prettify Williams’ life. An early scene reveals him in a juvenile jail in Detroit — the town the place the Temptations bought their begin — for robbing a youthful youngster. Six months of incarceration made him resolve to by no means once more danger his freedom and to dedicate himself to singing.

Wry humor stands out within the scene the place Williams meets Motown mogul Berry Gordy. The encounter occurred within the males’s room of a membership the place the group was singing. That set options 4 washbowls and 4 urinals.

The present has an entire firmament of glowing actors. That stated, Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks wrings each ounce of emotion from his scenes.

If one needed to nitpick, one would need a bit of extra govt oomph and mood in Jeremy Kelsey’s Berry Gordy.

A lean script provides momentum to the story. Some sarcasm and some “mom f**rs” spice the dialogue, however the language sounds genuine, and the actors’ have pitch-perfect supply.

In addition to wonderful performing, the forged gives very good singing. Just like the 5 unique Temptations, these performers current harmonies as wealthy as cream. At one level, Jalen Harris sustains a falsetto so lengthy that it threatens to crack the chandelier. A full orchestra accompanies the singing.
In lots of circumstances, songs deepen a scene’s emotion. For instance, “I can’t imagine my ears/ Are you actually telling me goodbye?” is sung by a gaggle member as a weary girl is about to stroll out of the connection.

The dazzling choreography leaves one questioning how the forged manages to sing one second and within the subsequent do leaps and splits. It’s as if the performers took the unique Temptations’ basic strikes and poured on sizzling sauce. The strikes are extra intricate, extra athletic. Generally, the dancers stepped and clapped on the identical time, including a rhythmic factor.

One scene hinted on the group’s reference to Philadelphia. The Temptations let David Ruffin go as a consequence of his tardiness, missed performances, and discontent. Nonetheless, after he left the group, he generally got here to their reveals, hopped up and stage and started to sing with them.

One venue the place Ruffin did so, was on the outdated Valley Forge Music Honest. In one other scene, Williams explains how Ruffin died. The previous Temptation went to a Philly crack home in a limousine one evening. Round 3 a.m. the following morning, a limo left him, unconscious, on the door of the Hospital of the College of Pennsylvania. Ruffin died within the hospital as a consequence of an overdose, Williams says.

On a lighter observe, the Temptations took half within the well-known contests between fashionable teams at Broad Avenue’s Uptown Theatre. The Temptations dueled with Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions on one event, and with Gladys Knight and the Pips on one other.

Otis Williams additionally writes about falling in love with Patti LaBelle. The romance couldn’t survive the frequent excursions that saved the singers aside.
“Ain’t Too Proud” capsulizes the occasions of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the units present these occasions vividly. Ingenious projections characteristic buildings burning throughout inside metropolis riots of the ‘60s, the face of Martin Luther King, fight scenes from the conflict in Vietnam, shouting white followers when the Temptations obtain crossover success, and extra. Some projections give the viewers the feeling of precise motion.

The worth of success stands on the coronary heart of the Temptations’ story. Early within the present, group members promise to be loyal to one another. Nonetheless, as soon as they started getting high billing at venues like New York’s Copacabana evening membership, their unity began to fray.

“Looks like the larger we bought, the extra issues we had,” Williams stated.

“Ain’t Too Proud” factors out that Williams and different Temptations generally sacrificed household life to maintain the hits coming. In a single scene, Williams asks his son to play catch with him. The son, now grown to younger manhood, says that the time for enjoying catch is lengthy gone.
The flip facet of the query is how failure, or not going for the large time, would have affected the group.

In a scene close to the top of the present, Eddie Kendricks, dying of lung most cancers, sits in a wheelchair and talks with Williams. Kendricks says that the struggles and missteps had been value it.

The greater than two dozen Temptations hits plus a couple of number-one songs by different artists, like Edwin Starr’s blockbuster, “Warfare,” will let a few of us step again in time, whereas it gives youthful Philadelphians with spectacular leisure.

“Ain’t Too Proud” runs via January 21, 2024, on the Academy of Music. Go to: https://www.kimmelculturalcampus.org/events-and-tickets/2023-24/broadway/aint-too-proud/.