Kedar K. Adour

Performing Arts Reviews

Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations a smash hit at Berkeley Rep

AIN’T TOO PROUD – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS: MUSICAL. Written by Dominique Morisseau. Directed by Des McAnuff. World Premiere at Berkeley Rep, Roda Theatre, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA .    September 14- October 22, 2017.

Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations a smash hit at Berkeley Rep. Rating: ★★★★★

The Roda Theater at Berkeley Rep was rocking from the first number to the curtain call Thursday night for the official opening of Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations. It is ready for a long run on Broadway and most certainly will wow Londoners soon after. It is based on the biography “The Temptations” by Otis Williams the original founder of the quintet that was labelled the best ever Rhythm and Blues performers.

In the show Otis Williams (a brilliant Derrick Baskin) is the narrator who steps in and out of narrating and performing. He is supported by a talented group of singers/dancers who each earn accolades individually and collectively. He emphasized that the group was more important than the individuals and this has been proven since there have been 24 different members of the group that kept the flame burning since their inception. However in this cast Ephraim Sykes as the troubled David Ruffian and Jeremy Pope as Eddie Kendricks are standouts.

It is a truly collaborative show that brings their great music to life from “Ain’t Too Proud (to beg)” to finale “You’re My Everything” with 25 or so songs in between. The original group was five ordinary black young men from Detroit who were discovered by Berry Gordy (Jahi Kearse) founder of what was to become Motown Records.  With the help of Smokey Robinson (Christian Thompson) they created a portfolio of artists making the Motown Sound a worldwide phenomenon.

It took 24 tries before the Temptations had a hit and went on to fame and fortune. All the bumps and bruises are portrayed but it is the music, singing and dancing that bring this show to life. An added attraction is The Supremes (Taylor Symone Jackson, Candice Marie Woods, Nasia Thomas) who were actually competition for the talented five.

The classic moves of the Temptations are recreated by choreographer Sergio Trujillo and the singers  do not miss a beat as they are perfectly in sync between doing splits and instantly springing up to join the line and adroitly grab a microphone. It is a sweat inducing display that is infectious earning the spontaneous clapping and a standing ovation.

The book by Dominque Morisseau captures the inner psyche of each individual as well as the social milieu of the trouble times of their era. Director Des McNuff who guided Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy, 700 Sundays and Big River to fame keeps all in control amidst technical paraphernalia and a fantastic ever changing set, lights and costumes. Last but not least the 14 piece band more than earns a brief appearance in the curtain call. This show has all the qualities that make it a must see production.

CAST: Esther Antoine (Swing), Derrick Baskin (Otis Williams), Shawn Bowers (Lamont), Jeremy Cohen (Shelly Berger), E. Clayton Cornelious (Richard Street), James Harkness (Paul Williams), Rodney Earl Jackson, Jr. (Swing), Taylor Symone Jackson (Johnnie Mae), Jared Joseph (Melvin Franklin), Jahi Kearse (Berry Gordy), Jarvis B. Manning, Jr. (Al), Jeremy Pope (Eddie Kendricks), Devin L. Roberts (Swing), Rashidra Scott (Josephine), Caliaf St. Aubyn (Dennis), Ephraim Sykes (David Ruffin) , Nasia Thomas (Mama Rose), Christian Thompson (Smokey Robinson), and Candice Marie Woods (Diana Ross).  

CREATIVE TEAM: Robert Brill (scenic designer), Paul Tazewell (costume designer), Howell Binkley (lighting designer), Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound designer) Peter Nigrini (projection designer), Charles G. LaPointe (hair and wig designer), and Steve Rankin (fight director). Orchestrations are by Harold Wheeler with Music Direction and Arrangements by Kenny Seymour.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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