Made it to downtown L.A. in the teeth of the usual frustrating traffic to see the heralded production of “Ain’t Too Proud- The Life and Times of the Temptations”.
And maddening traffic or not, you should, too, before the run ends September 30th, at the Ahmanson Theatre and moves east to Broadway to probably become a hit and hot ticket.
There has become some debate among critics what to label the production: a jukebox musical, or a more respectful biography of a fabled singing group, with a patina of history and histrionics?
But as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, forget the labels, they are just a crutch for critics. I would wrap it all up, put a bow on it, and call it a celebration, especially if you loved the Temptations back in the 60s and 70s, as I did. The bursting-at-the seams production makes it a joyful evening.
Loved the songs, their singular sounds, the distinct harmonies, and their smooth, choreographed delivery. They are performed with a syncopated sparkle that ignites the stage under the smooth direction of Des McAnuff, who not incidentally was the guiding hand for the hit musical Jersey Boys.
He is ably aided here by choreographer Sergio Trujillo, musical conductor Kenny Seymour and scenic designer Robert Brill. A shout out also for the flash-bam lighting design of Howell Binkley, and the glittering costumes by Paul Tazwell.
Indeed, it is an all star production, with a talented cast headed by by Derrick Baskin as the persevering Temptation original Otis Williams, Jawan Jackson with the a bass that echoes the fabeled Melvin Franklin, as does Jeremy Pope hitting the high note falsettos of Eddie Kendricks. And capturing the sad saga of David Ruffin is a convincing Ephrain Sykes.
But as a tough love I would suggest before moving on to Broadway, some nip and tucking is needed. 31 songs are a lot: Let “My Girl” resound, while a few others can be forgotten.
And the unquestionably truthful dialogue by Dominique Morisseau frankly needs editing. For all the fame and fortune, the climb out a down-and-out Detroit and life on the road, obviously took its toll. There are drugs and drink, and to borrow a word, temptations. All true, but also cliché. Meanwhile, you want to hear the music, and as batted out in “Ain’t Too Proud” for sure ain’t bad.
It all makes for a great first offering for the Fall season at the Ahamson, where followed for sure will be sellouts of “Dear Evans Hansen” and “Come From Away.” It is not too early to get tickets.