After opening in California in 2017 and playing in theaters across the U.S. and Canada, Ain’t Too Proud made its Broadway debut in 2019, garnering 11 Tony Award nominations.
If you aren’t a fan of Motown’s superstar group at the start of Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations, you will be by the time the curtain falls on this spectacular show. Playing at the Detroit Opera House through Aug. 28, the show, written by native Detroit playwright Dominique Morisseau, is based on founder Otis Williams’ 1988 memoir “The Temptations.”
After opening in California in 2017 and playing in theaters across the U.S. and Canada, Ain’t Too Proud made its Broadway debut in 2019, garnering 11 Tony Award nominations. Sergio Trujillo’s amazing dance numbers resulted in a well-deserved win for Best Choreography.
While Broadway is usually the pinnacle for a musical, Detroit is the place to be for this show, an homage to the hometown of the Temptations and the groundbreaking Motown sound.
Directed by Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) and named for the 1966 hit “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” the show features more than two dozen classic Temptations songs, performed by a supremely talented cast led by Marcus Paul James as Otis Williams, who narrates the behind-the-scenes story of these gifted albeit troubled musicians.
The other cast members are equally stellar, especially Elijah Ahmad Lewis as golden-voiced David Ruffin, Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, Harrell Holmes Jr. as Melvin “Blue” Franklin and James T. Lane as Paul “Corn” Williams.
Lawrence Dandridge plays a hilarious Smokey Robinson, and Traci Elaine Lee makes a big impression in her small role as feisty Johnnie Mae Matthews, one of the group’s early managers.
The simple, primarily black-and-white set by Robert Brill sets the mood without overshadowing the real stars of the show, the songs and the musicians who bring them to life so impressively.
However, any biopic is only as good as its subject, and Otis Williams fills the bill as an incredibly talented musician and a kindhearted human being who genuinely cared about the people in his life. The musical’s portrayal of the man was validated by the legend himself, when he took the stage on press night to express his love for Detroit and share a warm hug with the group’s longtime manager Shelley Berger (played by Reed Campbell in the musical), eliciting a new round of cheers and tears from the enthusiastic audience.
Williams is literally the “last man standing,” surviving the deaths of the original group members and the devastating loss of his 21-year-old son in a construction accident. But, as he told his beloved Detroit audience, “Nothing lives forever except the music,” and for that we are grateful.
“Ain’t Too Proud” runs through Aug. 28 at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway St., Detroit. Tickets are $35 and up. Call 313-961-3500 or visit www.broadwayindetroit.com for more information.