Race to get your tickets. Please do not be tempted to skip this short superb First National Run of The Life and Times of the Temptations. This is a not to be missed Broadway Smash Juke Box Musical with Tony Award-Winning Choreography and Grammy hit songs. We are all so familiar with the toe-tapping soulful songs and smooth synchronized dance moves, but not the heartfelt both triumphal and tragic backstories of the rise from the mean streets of Detroit to Motown Magic.
Marcus Paul James portrays the founding and only surviving member of the Temptations, Otis Williams. He has an impressive natural stage presence. His outstanding delivery reveals the chronology of the most popular soul acts for six decades. We learn that Otis after a brief stint in juvenile detention is inspired by his favorite group the Cadillacs to change his life by forming several singing groups including Otis Williams and the Siberians, El Domingoes,the Distants, and the Elgins. After meeting Berry Gordy of Motown Records the name was changed to Temptations since another group was already known as the Elgins.
Harrell Holmes Jr. with his deep resonant bass voice both in speaking and singing entranced me. He plays Melvin Franklin also known as Blue. Holmes wistfully says, “Ever since I was 8 years old, I’ve wanted to be a Temptation, to now have that opportunity to bring their story to life is a dream come true. I can say emphatically “Holmes does Blue proud.”
Elijah Ahmad Lewis is the bespectacled image of David Ruffin. He has the same unique raspy tenor vocals while performing a perfect rendition of “My Girl” 1965 Temptation’s signature song. He is also the show-stopping lead in “Aint Too Proud.” David Ruffin’s narcissism, conflict with Gordy over financials, and his missing a 1968 Cleveland performance led to his downfall and firing. The musical takes advantage of the humor audiences experienced when despite being fired Ruffin kept showing up on stage and stealing the microphone from his replacement Dennis Edwards. David Ruffin’s drug abuse shows the dark tragic side of the rise to fame for the Temptations. The faster the Temptations rose to fame the more fractured they became.
Jalen Harris discovered on American Idol season ten shows his chops as he portrays Eddie Kendricks, a tenor, noted for his distinctive falsetto. Kendricks was also in conflict with Berry Gordy. He felt Gordy did not have the group’s best interests at heart.
Paul Williams played by James T. Lane, teaches music, theater, and dance. His expertise shows in his outstanding performance. Williams was sometimes described as the unsung hero of the Temptations since his baritone voice and choreography were central to the success of the classic five temptations. Unfortunately his drinking, probably a result of self-medicating for sickle cell anemia disease led him to disaster. At just 34 years of age, he was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to his head.
Surprise abounds in this musical. I was unaware Smokey Robinson, artfully played by Lawrence Dandridge, wrote many of the Temptation’s first hits Later changing styles Norman J. Whitfield, played by the versatile Brett Michael Lockley wrote more psychedelic soul songs for the Temptations. The cultural climate of turmoil and turbulent times demanded that. History is covered in the way the Temptations through hearing the grim news of Martin Luther King’s assassination, and their own experiences being terrorized down South where many of the original members hailed from caused them to want to be more political. The Vietnam War and its influence on their music are included. They succeeded in crossing over to become mainstream through television appearances while bringing Black and White audiences together.
A big bonus with this musical is the flawless exquisite performances by Traci Elaine Lee (Johnnie Mae and Mary Wilson). Deri’ Andra Tucker (Diana Ross) and Shayla Brielle G. (Mama Rose, Florence Ballard) as the Supremes. Their sobriquet says it all they reign Supreme. The only downfall in this whole production was the dialogue was sometimes hard to hear.
This show has sparkling gorgeous costumes, and a phenomenally talented cast, who are superlative dancers, singers, and actors. The orchestra is extraordinary. This true story has humor, heart, and drama. It is uplifting and yet at times dark and gravely emotional. What made this experience even more amazing was the way the audience embraced this musical with electrifying energetic enthusiasm. I hope everyone who sees Aint Too Proud is as delighted as I was at this live venue. The finale will leave you filled with joy.
Masks are still required for the protection of all. AIN’T TOO PROUD –THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS, is now playing at the Broadway Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph Street). Ticket prices range from $29.50 to $116.00 with a select number of premium tickets available. AIN’T TOO PROUD will play sixteen performances from May 24 through June 5, 2022. Individual tickets are available at www.BroadwayInChicago.com. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312)977-1710 or emailing GroupSales@BroadwayInChicago.com