“Ain’t Too Proud” at the Ahmanson is irresistible and electrifying!!! A must see before it heads to Broadway! From the very first moments, we are mesmerized by the smooth moves, the amazing dancing and unmistakable harmonies of ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,’ ‘Get Ready,’ ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,’ ‘My Girl’ and ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone,’ just to name a few.
L-R: Ephraim Sykes, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope, Derrick Baskin and James Harkness in Ain’t Too Proud, Photo by Matthew Murphy
We watch the trajectory of The Temptations through the eyes of Otis Williams, the founder and last surviving original band member. From award-winning writer Dominique Morisseau (The Detroit Project, which included Skeleton Crew which I recently enjoyed at the Geffen, TV’s Shameless), we see the story of brotherhood, family, loyalty and betrayal, based on the memoir Williams wrote with Patricia Romanowski entitled, “The Temptations.”
Directed by Des McAnuff who also directed the Tony award winning Jersey Boys, we follow The Temptations as young guys in a Detroit neighborhood to their first meeting at Motown with legendary record producer, Berry Gordy who recognized the guys’ talent and knew he had lightning in a bottle and something very unique.
A standout performance by Ephraim Sykes who plays David Ruffin! He lights up the stage with his seductive voice and slick dance moves that are almost airborne. Also Jawan M. Jackson, who plays Melvin Franklin, with his deep, mellow bass voice is incredible. Derek Baskin as Otis Williams who anchors the show, Jeremy Pope as Eddie Kendricks and James Harkness as Paul Williams all give fabulous performances.
L-R: Christian Thompson, Saint Aubyn, Ephraim Sykes (center), Jeremy Pope, Derrick Baskin and Jawan M. Jackson in Ain’t Too Proud, Photo by Matthew Murphy
The entire ensemble all give high energy and electrifying performances. Rashidra Scott as Otis’ wife, Joshephine is a scene stealer as she sings ‘If You Don’t Know Me by Now’; her phenomenal vocal, one of the highlights of the show! Joshua Morgan as Shelly Berger, is convincing as the band’s manager who took The Temptations to international stardom. And rising stars, The Supremes who set the bar for the Motown sound and were portrayed by Candice Marie Woods as Diana Ross, Taylor Simone Jackson as Mary Wilson and Nasia Thomas all give outstanding performances.
We really enjoyed the dancing with all The Temptations signature moves and dazzling splits! Choreography by Tony award nominee Sergio Trujillo is super smooth. Sergio’s Broadway credits include On Your Feet, Jersey Boys, Flashdance and Memphis.
The music and orchestra lead by composer, arranger and musical director Harold Wheeler, best known as musical director of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, with Broadway credits including Sideshow, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hairspray, The Full Monty and Swing among others, is fantastic!
L-R: Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness and Derrick Baskin in Ain’t Too Proud, Photo by Matthew Murphy
The lighting by Howell Binkley transforms the stage into monochromatic hues that are gorgeous and somehow capture and evoke the 60s. The projection design by Peter Nigrini is amazing as we are transported on the Temptations vibrant national and international tours. It felt as if we were at a Temptations concert!
The scenic design by Robert Brill is absolutely brilliant. There’s a circular moving part in the center stage, while a conveyor belt in the front transports people off and on the stage; a very clever and original use of the stage that I’ve never seen before.
Do not miss this one! “Ain’t Too Proud” runs through September 30th at the Ahmanson Theatre, at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, L.A. 90012. https://www.centertheatregroup.org