Do you like tight, harmonizing vocals? Do you like crisp, sizzling, synchronized dance moves? Are you interested in learning the story of a vocal group and its members (and how they fit into American cultural history)? Perhaps, you like a blend of engaging narration and flawless acting. If any of these are your “cup of tea,” the Durham Performing Arts Center has just the ticket with the national tour of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations. Catch it if you can!
For “pre-show,” we are greeted with an image of the front of Detroit’s Fox Theatre. In huge letters, the marquee reads “THE TEMPTATIONS.” Closer inspection reveals a poster beside the door advertising the concert with even bigger letters: “SOLD OUT.” As the house lights go down, the curtain rises to reveal a performance stage; and five super-confident, impeccably groomed gentlemen strut smoothly onstage and launch into The Temptations’ hit “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” The voices! The moves! The harmonies! It’s like being there way back when!
Soon, founding member Otis Williams (Marcus Paul James) steps downstage right and begins telling the history of the group. He captivates the audience with brief “chapters” of the story, interspersed with songs performed by The Temptations and other contemporary groups. Where did they come from? How did they manage to climb to the top? What obstacles did they overcome? How did they deal with internal conflicts? And what their love lives? Buckle your seat belt — it’s a wild 2½-hour ride!
In addition to Marcus Paul James, the highly talented cast includes James T. Lane as Paul Williams, Harrell Holmes Jr. as Melvin Franklin, Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, and Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin — The (“Classic 5”) Temptations. The chemistry between these and subsequent members of the group is phenomenal. We learn how each was recruited, and we are there as various members depart. In the meantime, we are treated to snippets of no less than 31 hit songs from that era.
Playwright Dominique Morisseau supplies the book; music and lyrics are from The Legendary Motown Catalog. The show is based on the book titled Temptations by Otis Williams (with Patricia Romanowski).
Director Des McAnuff and choreographer Sergio Trujillo team up to serve up a fast-paced, well-blended feast which is complemented by a capable team of designers: Robert Brill (scenic), Paul Tazewell (costume), Howell Brinkley (lighting), Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound), Peter Nigrini (projection), and Charles G. Lapointe (hair and wigs).
Orchestrations are by Harold Wheeler, and music supervision and arrangements are by Kenny Seymour. Although not credited in the program, the band is fantastic; the audience greeted them enthusiastically when we met them (finally) at the end of the curtain call — an unexpected bonus!
Friday night’s audience swayed and clapped and sang along during most songs. And there was a plethora of applause and cheering.
The Department of Picky-Picky wants to salute the attention to such details as the “Buddy Holly-style” glasses worn by David Ruffin, the contract between “conk” hairstyles of the “Classic 5” and the puffier style sported by Dennis Edwards (Harris Matthew) when he replaced Ruffin, and the smooth look of all of groups’ performance costumes. We were also impressed by the trio impersonating Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson: Deri’Andra Tucker, Shayla Brielle G., and Traci Elaine Lee, respectively.
This show definitely has “something for everyone”!
Dominique Morisseau’s AIN’T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS (In Person at 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11th and 12th, presented as part of Truist Broadway at DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham). TRAILERS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53sv2L7_LhQ&t=3s and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzp_eW525_Wu6J6JFwXetPg. 2021-22 TRUIST BROADWAY AT DPAC SEASON: https://www.dpacnc.com/truist-broadway/season/2021-2022-truist-broadway-at-dpac. THE SHOW’S OFFICIAL WEBSITES: https://www.ainttooproudmusical.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/aint-too-proud-520003, https://www.facebook.com/AintTooProudMusical/, https://www.instagram.com/ainttooproudmusical/, https://twitter.com/ainttooproud, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzp_eW525_Wu6J6JFwXetPg. TICKETS: $35 and up, plus taxes and fees. Call 800-982-2787 or click here to buy tickets. GROUPS (10+ tickets): 919-680-2787, Groups@DPACnc.com, and https://www.dpacnc.com/events/groups-services. DIRECTIONS: https://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions. PARKING: https://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking. DPAC COVID-19 REQUIREMENTS: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/vaccination-and-covid-19-test-requirements. INFORMATION: 919-680-2787 or CustomerService@DPACnc.com. Susie Potter’s Review.
Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.