“Ain’t Too Proud” Delivers Hit After Hit in Telling Temptations’ Musical Journey
A line from Dominique Morisseau’s “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” sums up the arc of the Broadway musical that opened last night at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center: “Outside, the world was exploding. Inside, so were we.”
The show has all the songs and fun choreography that you would expect from a musical featuring the supergroup, the Temptations – “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Come See About Me,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “My Girl,” – there are too many to list here, but you know what I mean. I overheard an audience member whisper to her friend, “I had a hard time not singing along or getting up to dance.” You’ll feel that.
But, the show, narrated by Otis Williams (Michael Andreaus) is more than just two-and-a-half hours of Temptations covers. The story begins with Otis Williams putting together a group in Detroit, signing with Motown, climbing the charts, crossing over into white audiences and the excitement of reaching the top, but the musical also reveals all the bumps along the way. If you look beneath the shiny stage surface of any band, it’s almost a given that you’ll find drug and alcohol abuse, illicit affairs and clashing egos. The Temptations were not immune to these individual human frailties, forcing Otis to find replacements for singers as members of the group succumbed to vices. But the Temptations also faced the added layer of racism, riots, war and political unrest. “Ain’t Too Proud” doesn’t shy away from the racial divisions of the time.
A particularly powerful moment was a heartachingly brilliant delivery of “I Wish It Would Rain,” inserted in the show at a point when the band members were ducking under their tour bus seats on a trip through the South to dodge bullets from white men, and after they learn of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The song carries the weight of the overpowering personal, political and social loss.
The lighter, more showbiz-type moments reveal fun historical tidbits like the group not wanting to sing “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” written by Barrett Strong and Norman J. Whitfield, because it didn’t feel like a Temptations song. It also hit a little too close to home for a couple of the members. The group changed their tune when the song charted out at No. 1.
On the other hand, the band wanted to sing “War,” but Motown’s Berry Gordy nixed that, saying it was too political for the “Temps.”
There have been more than 20 Temptations since 1963, and Otis Williams is the only living member of the original group. You’ll find out what happened to each of them in “Ain’t Too Proud” as you enjoy the enduring music they created. It’s hard not to get on your feet and sing along.
“Ain’t Too Proud” is a terrific date-night show. Teens would enjoy it, too. Or gather up a group of friends for a fun night out. You’ll know every song. The award-winning Broadway musical is at the Tulsa PAC through April 9, presented by Celebrity Attractions. For times and ticket information, go to www.tulsapac.com.