Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Broadway in Tucson Review: 'Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of the Temptations'

Peeking behind the curtain to show how the Temptations were able to produce a cavalcade of hits in the 1960s and 70s, "Ain't Too Proud -- The Life and Times of the Temptations" brings the vivacious pop group to vivid life.

From the outset, a tone-setting performance of "The Way You Do the Things You Do," the show bowls the crowd over with an energetic and faithful interpretation of a Temptations concert. With shortened versions of most mega-hits the band produced acting as a Greek chorus to comment on the dramatic interludes, the show is a toe-tapping, clap-over-your-head force of nature that plasters smiles across faces.

Nominated for 12 2019 Tony Awards -- winning Best Choreography -- the show is taking victory laps on a national tour.

With many cast members having starred on stage and screen, competing in "American Idol," it doesn't seem like too much of a leap to declare that the bulk of the cast -- led by the likes of Michael Andreaus, E. Clayton Conelious, Jalen Jarris and Harrell Holmes Jr. -- are every bit as talented, if not more, than the performers they are playing.

The dramatic throughline is Otis Williams' efforts to maintain the band's image and integrity in a ruthless manner, throwing out established members who go astray and taking flyers on up-and-coming performers to fill the holes. As the Temptations pump out 42 top 10 hits and 14 number ones, they struggle to keep pace with the political climate, racial tensions and the trappings of business and fame.

Just as with the real Temptations, the performers show a remarkable commitment to synchronicity and teamwork, with clockwork choreography and harmony that meld together with jigsaw-style precision. The demands of rehearsal must be excruciating, but the incredibly hard work pays off in what appears to the audience as effortless bliss.

It's all too easy for the audience to let the Temptations run away with their imaginations.

"Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of the Temptations" plays through Dec. 3 at Centennial Hall. Buy tickets here.

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