Continuing the legacy of an iconic 60s band that swept the music scene in the bid to be at the top of their game, Ain’t Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations follows the rise to success of the American legends as they make history. From preceding the birth of the official group, to during the lives of the foundling members, the show explores their hugely expansive career through the ages of soul, funk, and R&B.
Playing the leading man, Otis Williams, Sifiso Mazibuko sets the precedence for the production's brilliance, with an introduction to himself, and the stunning vocals that would soon be demonstrated by a further immaculate cast. Grooving to the opening number, 'The Way You Do the Things You Do', it gives foresight for the immense talent that emerges over the course of the thoroughly interesting story whereby acting up on the streets transforms into a mindset of being hit selling artists. Otis- already known for his work in Otis Williams & the Distants- was looking for change when deciding to seek out some old friends to form a new group. Crossing paths, Melvin "Blue" Franklin (Cameron Bernard Jones), Elbridge "Al" Bryant (Michael James Stewart), Eddie Kendricks (Mitchell Zhangazha), and Paul Williams (Kyle Cox) joined him in creating the original line up as The Temptations was born.
Their journey to stardom was quickly tainted with many more problems among them: shocking personal relationships, strained tensions about finances and managing the limelight, and a desperation to 'crossover' to white audiences as well as their own, but with potentially detrimental costs to their safety, all before health problems began robbing them of the glory too. Along the way, they picked up troublemaker David Ruffin (Tosh Wanogho-Maud), who craved the fame, in trade for 'Al' and the group began making waves in the industry with their manager, Shelley Berger (Dylan Turner), against fellow Motown group, The Supremes.
Every act they perform as the band is choreographically exquisite, with this devised by Sergio Trujillo, with direction by Des Mcanuff; constantly mesmerising. Allowing ample admiration for the craftsmanship that evidently went into the creation of the tracks, many written by Smokey Robinson (Ryan Carter) for the group, the calibre of live music is really taken up a notch as the toe-tapping tunes are paired with vocals beyond comparison. Cameron Bernard Jones' rich bass tones are a marvel, alongside each unique element of the compositions in the collective showcase for the score, including 'Ain't Too Proud To Beg', 'I Can't Get Next To You', 'Papa Was a Rolling Stone', and of course, 'My Girl'. It is absolutely packed with songs throughout, though giving enough narration to easily follow the story along too. There wasn't a single performer that felt out of place, as each contributed beautifully to bringing to life the voices of The Temptations.
Accompanying these, a vast variety of sliding sliding set pieces move to adorn the stage, making for resourceful, and typically effective transition. To match, projections complete the scenes, and while didn't totally transform the space into the recording studio, or range of gig venues, still functions to fit the narrative adequately. In all, the show has many bouts of fascinating knowledge about not only the band and their culture, but the development of the music industry as a whole, which just makes you want the development of a jukebox musical about the lives of every one of your favourite artists, especially those with a life as detailed as this.
Ain't Too Proud is utterly ideal for fans of The Temptations, but also those who know nothing about the band alike. It is an experienced to appreciate wholeheartedly the music we have been gifted from some incredible performers over the years, and it is a joy to know that the band continue to play to new generations, with the real Otis Williams remaining in the line up.