The Ain't Too Proud review is out!
Ain’t Too Proud may just have the best music in the West End - and they know it. Running at Prince Edward Theatre, the jukebox musical tells the story of Motown megahit The Temptations by bringing their best tunes to the stage, where the cast’s dulcet tones and killer dance moves consistently bring down the house. Fame, drugs and ego drive founding members to early retirement and tragic death, but Otis Williams (Sifiso Mazibuko), the show’s narrator and de facto leader, steers the group through its rockiest patches by reminding them of how far they’ve come - from busking on the streets of Detroit to selling out concert halls across the globe. The scenes move at a brisk pace and cover plenty of ground: we see The Temptations grapple with the ouster of star vocalist David Ruffin, the onset of the civil rights movement, the death of Martin Luther King Jr., and countless changes to their lineup, songwriters, and management. Those less familiar with the band’s impact will receive a comprehensive education, but the emotional beats sometimes miss the mark. Paint-by-numbers dialogue drags in scenes focusing on Otis’s estrangement from his wife and son, and the story glances over David Ruffin’s abusive relationship with fellow Motown artist Tammy Terrell. Yet the quick momentum mostly manages to capture the buzzy, brash energy of the 60s and 70s, with cameos from the Supremes and Smokey Robinson to round out the key cast.
The real draws are the numbers themselves, featuring swinging choreography from Sergio Trujillo. Incredible vocals are at par for the course when it comes to The Temptations’ discography, and this cast is no exception, riffing, crooning and belting their way through the greatest hits with truly astonishing skill. Renditions of “My Girl,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” earned rapturous applause, with Tosh Wanogho-Maud and Mitchell Zhangazha as standouts in the roles of David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, respectively. It’s no wonder the scenes are so short - as soon as they finished a song, I was already itching to hear another.
Robert Brill’s set incorporates projections and moving screens but is most effective when it replicates the hallmarks of the period: a public hall marquee, an NBC soundstage, and a massive Motown logo that looms over the groups’ dealings with the record label. The Temptations look snazzy in a series of colour-coordinated, wide-lapelled suits by costume designer Paul Tazewell, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the head-to-toe spangled gowns worn by the Supremes during their show-stopping performance on American Bandstand.
Ain’t Too Proud is an old-fashioned spectacle, and it ain’t too proud to deliver on its spectacular promises. Whether you’re new to The Temptations or a lifelong fan, you’ll be boogying in your seat before the first act is up! The biographical jukebox musical gets five stars for being able to bring back the magic of The Temptations to the stage.
I first fell in love with the theatre during a preschool production of Caps For Sale, in which I treasured my single line. Since then, I’ve discovered an even greater love: writing about the productions that challenge me, surprise me, and bring me the utmost joy, in the hopes that others will seek out theatre with the power to enrich their lives and inspire wonder.