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"Ain’t Too Proud", The Life and Times of the Temptations, at the Imperial Theatre
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"Ain’t Too Proud", The Life and Times of the Temptations, at the Imperial Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights


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Ira Pittelman & Tom Hulce
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
et al.
Present:

Ain’t Too Proud
The Life and Times of the Temptations
(Show Website)

Book by Dominique Morisseau
Music and Lyrics from
The Legendary Motown Catalog

Based on the Book The Temptations
by Otis Williams with Patricia Romanowski
Music by arrangement w. SONY/ATV Music Pub.

At the
Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th Street
NY, NY
212.239.6200

Directed by Des McAnuff
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
Music Direction / Arrangements by Kenny Seymour
Orchestrations by Harold Wheeler

With:
Derrick Baskin, James Harkness, Jawan M. Jackson
Jeremy Pope, Ephraim Sykes

And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Scenic Design: Robert Brill
Costume Design: Paul Tazewell
Lighting Design: Howell Binkley
Sound Design: Steve Canyon Kennedy
Projection Design: Peter Nigrini
Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. Lapointe
Fight Director: Steve Rankin
Musical Coordinator: John Miller
Vocal Supervisor: Liz Caplan
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting,
Merri Sugarman, CSA
General Management:
Corker Group, LLC / John Corker
Press: DKC/O&M
Advertising: Serino Coyne
Company Manager: J. Anthony Magner
Production Stage Manager: Molly Meg Legal
Exec. Producers:
Otis Williams / Danielle Brooks

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 28, 2019


Read about the Temptations vocal group.

As my guest tonight sat in awe, his jaw dropped at the stunning sight of the Temptations’ choreographed songs, as they jumped, and spun, and landed in a split, and slid along the floor, and sang as if there was no tomorrow. There is no sound like Motown, from 60’s and 70’s Detroit, and Des McAnuff has directed the exceptional Ain’t Too Proud ensemble to not only belt out their harmonies and solos, but also to poignantly dramatize the uncountable tragedies and obstacles that occurred to each of the original and replacement members of the group.

Otis Williams, a surviving, performing member as of today, founded the Temptations, with assistance from the estimable Berry Gordy (Kearse). Derrick Baskin, as Otis, could not be more charming and caring, as the Temptations, formed with members of competing groups, evolved musically and stylistically with Paul Williams (James Harkness), Melvin Franklin (Jawan M. Jackson), Eddie Kendricks (Jeremy Pope), Al Bryant (Jarvis B. Manning, Jr.), and Bryant’s replacement, David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes).

As the ensemble croons, belts, shimmies, and dances, facing the audience or turning their backs to us as they sing to imaginary rear stage fans, we are royally treated to an array of 31 songs, most of which are original Temptations tunes, some of which are Supremes tunes. In fact, the Supremes figure in this show, with Candice Marie Woods embodying, in soul and vocals, the iconic Diana Ross, joined by her own ensemble, along with Nasia Thomas playing Florence Ballard, the Supremes’ founder, and Taylor Symone Jackson as Mary Wilson, longest member of the Supremes. Other Motown icons represented in the show include Smokey Robinson (Christian Thompson), producer, writer, singer, and vocalist, Tammi Terrell (also Nasia Thomas).

To mention some of the captivating show tunes noted above, how about “Gloria”, “Get Ready”. “Baby Love”, “For Once in My Life”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, “My Girl”, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”, “Don’t Look Back”, and the title tune, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. The performance of the Motown catalog is even more significant than the incredibly dramatic back story, as it’s the music (conducted by Kenny Seymour), the arrangements, the orchestrations, the persuasive facial expressions amidst the unique narrative, and the Temptations’ astounding choreographic feats, created by renowned choreographer, Sergio Trujillo.

That layered back story, the angst (Otis’ pregnant girlfriend) and joy (their son), success and loss, bonding and conflict, illness (Eddie Kendricks’ lung cancer) and suicide (Paul Williams), cortisone overdose (Melvin Franklin), crack house death (David Ruffin), ensemble hirings and firings, record sales, money gained, money lost, and oh, so many women and oh, so many arguments. And then, the next couple of songs, and so on. Dominique Morisseau’s book of the show is based on Otis Williams’ autobiography, and the group’s musical and personal history is woven seamlessly in the narration and scenic vignettes, spoken by Mr. Baskin as Otis.

The date and location of each vignette is projected (thanks to Peter Nigrini) to guide the viewer through the timeline. Robert Brill’s uncluttered and flexible scenic design works perfectly, with Paul Tazewell’s gorgeous suits for the show’s numbers. Howell Binkley’s lighting adds a golden glow to the songs and the group’s sultry, snazzy motion. More importantly, Steve Canyon Kennedy’s sound design has each lyric and comment distinct. Collaborating on orchestrations, music direction, and music coordination are Harold Wheeler, Kenny Seymour, and John Miller. Kudos to Dominique Morisseau, Des McAnuff, the cast, the design and tech crew, and kudos to the Temptations.



Ephraim Sykes (kneeling) and
the Cast of AIN'T TOO PROUD
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy



Derrick Baskin, Jeremy Pope,
Jawan M. Jackson, Ephraim Sykes,
and James Harkness in
AIN'T TOO PROUD
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy



The Cast of AIN'T TOO PROUD
Courtesy of Matthew Murphy



See a Testimonial of Daniela Trattoria's New Redesign.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net