Prepare — right here they arrive!
“Ain’t Too Proud” arrived on Broadway Thursday night time buoyed by a surge of nostalgia and a slew of Motown hits. However anybody who’s seen the sooner jukebox exhibits “Jersey Boys” or “Motown: The Musical” is certain to really feel a boring sense of déja vu.
Subtitled “The Life and Instances of the Temptations” and woven with golden oldies like “Get Prepared,” “Simply My Creativeness (Operating Away with Me)” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” the present is predicated on a ebook by Otis Williams, the R&B supergroup’s founder — and its final dwelling unique member. Whereas “ATP” packs some terrific performances, it’s a paint-by-numbers night.
The story traces the Detroit band’s rise to fame and its private and political conflicts, which unfold effectively, if mechanically, in an “after which we did this” trend. Williams (Derrick Baskin) narrates and introduces fellow Temps. There’s his neighbor (no relation) Paul Williams (James Harkness), Melvin Franklin (Jawan M. Jackson), Eddie Kendricks (the exceptional Jeremy Pope) and David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes).
Dominique Morisseau’s script primarily offers every man one primary trait: Paul has the slick dance strikes, Ruffin’s the one “hooked on the worst drug of all — the highlight,” and so forth. The ladies of their lives, both abused or left behind, hug the sidelines. Motown music mogul Berry Gordy seems at times to behave because the Temps’ Svengali.
The joys is watching the Temptations discover their collective voice, tight harmonies and strikes. “The entire is all the time larger than the sum of its components,” Williams likes to say, and it’s true. When the group’s performing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” on “American Bandstand” and “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” with the Supremes on an NBC particular, or mourning the dying of Dr. Martin Luther King in “I Want It Would Rain” (a dramatic flip that helps set up an in any other case imprecise timeline), the songs mild up the stage.
That’s an excellent factor, since a lot of the manufacturing is drenched in grey. A lesson within the energy of humor from “The Cher Present” might assist.
An enormous plus is Sergio Trujillo’s choreography, with its dazzling spins and splits and piston-precise steps. However a fog of familiarity hangs over Des McAnuff’s staging: The director of the hit “Jersey Boys” and the miss “Summer time” depends on his ordinary go-to methods: kinetic characters, live performance lighting, scrolling graphics, naked stage. And issues get somber in a short time after Ruffin’s expulsion from the group.
“Ain’t Too Proud” is a refined tribute journey to an act that retains on going, albeit with totally different singers: Williams notes there have been 24 Temps because the early ’60s, when the group began. Proud this present is — however distinctive, it ain’t.