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DPAC's "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations" Takes a Tender, Honest Look at the Legendary Musical Group
Christian Thompson, Saint Aubyn, Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Derrick Baskin, and Jawan M Jackson in
AIN'T TOO PROUD. Photo by Matthew Murphy
Jukebox musicals are all the rage these days, and in the case of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, onstage now at DPAC, it’s easy to see why. Directed by Des McAnuff, written by Dominique Morisseau, and based on Temptations’ founder Otis Williams’ book, this soulful production dives deep into the history of a legendary (and still kicking!) musical group and the trials and tribulations of the people who sacrificed much to make it great.
The show begins with fun, eye-catching choreography from Sergio Trujillo, and indeed, the choreography remains noteworthy throughout. The cast, as is fitting for this musical story, bursts into crazy, full-out dances at a moment’s notice, adding to the frenetic energy and fast pace. This is a production that keeps things moving and never veers into dull territory.
Backing all the action is the story’s narrator, Otis Williams, delightfully portrayed by an utterly likeable and thoroughly charming Marcus Paul James. James, as Williams, effortlessly carries viewers through the Temptations’ formation, many name changes, and multiple shifts and transitions without missing a beat. He’s accompanied by an equally talented cast of male performers, including Harrell Holmes Jr. and Elijah Ahmad Lewis. Holmes is wonderfully sweet and perfectly deep-voiced in his portrayal of Melvin Franklin, while Lewis makes the troubled David Ruffin relatable and sympathetic.
In truth, all of the characters here, as imperfect as they may be, are characters worth rooting for. The show’s infectious energy, its humor, and its unflinching look at the darker side of fame paints realistic, non sugar-coated portrayals of real people. It tackles such tough issues as domestic violence, drug use, and racism, while still managing to remain tender and triumphant. Also nice here is the fact that “Otis,” despite being the glue that holds the group together and the one telling the story, is not painted as some perfect hero. His struggles with fatherhood and marriage are brought to light, making him just as exposed and vulnerable as the others.
Ultimately, this is a story about music, but it’s also about the ups and downs of life and doing what you love. And, most importantly and resoundingly, it’s about brotherhood. Viewers can go in knowing nothing about The Temptations, and they’ll leave impressed with this musical group, its impact, and its ability to persevere against all odds. Uplifting, unifying, and a unique entry to the jukebox genre, it’s a hit-packed show that everyone is sure to love.
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