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AIN’T TOO PROUD musical at Fox theater review

The Fox opens its new season with a big crowd-pleaser, the Tony-winning hit Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud The Life and Times of the Temptations.” What’s not to like, with some of the biggest hits of the Motown era, and a terrific story that spans the Temptations’ long-running career and the various changes of the era.

Those hits include the title’s “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” along with “Shout,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” My Girl,” “Get Ready” and many more. The wide-ranging story also features hits from other groups of the era, like the Supremes, and hits like “Come See About Me,” and hits from other artists of the era like “War.”

With this line-up of classic hits, the audience was on their feet over and over again, clapping and dancing along, giving the whole evening a party feel.

Temptations’ founder Otis Williams (Marcus Paul James) narrates the story, which begins with the musical group’s founding on the streets of Detroit and parallels the rise of the Motown sound. That means the story covers the five-member group’s many personnel changes, including those who were with the musical group for their biggest hits, like David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis), Melvin Franklin (Harrell Holmes Jr.), Eddie Kendricks (Jalen Harris) and Paul Williams (James T. Lane).

One of the signatures of the Temptations were their tightly choreographed dances that went with their perfectly crafted harmonies. It was as much about dancing as singing, making them an electrifying act in person. That double-thrill kept the musical group touring, which took its toll on its members

“Ain’t Too Proud” is not just about the Temptations (as if that wouldn’t be enough!) but the evolving music industry of their era. Besides the Temps themselves, the story includes music producer Berry Gordy (Michael Andreaus) and the legendary Smokey Robinson (Lawrence Dandridge). The Supremes play a prominent part, with Amber Mariah Talley as Diana Ross, Shayla Brielle G as Florence Ballard and Traci Elaine Lee as Mary Wilson, as that group shared the stage and spotlight with the Temps, as well as some personal relationships.

But the Temptations endured while other groups broken up or fell by the wayside, although the many changes in the singing group meant that at one time there was more than one musical act touring under the name. However, as narrator Otis Williams tells us, there was only one real Temptations.

Marcus Paul James as Otis Williams does an impressive job, handling the jobs of narrator and singer/dancer with seemingly boundless energy. All the performers are terrific. both as singers and dancers, capturing well the Temp’s famous mirror-like precision coordinated moves, and emotional singing, harmonizing style. The many performance sequences are the highlights of the show, with a just-long-enough sampling of each hit to please the audience without making the production too long.

The staging requires multiple settings to tell the story, which are accomplished with kaleidoscope projections mixed with props. The digital projection also are used to add news flashes about events of the era, like the assassination of MLK.

Of course, costumes get a chance to shine but it is the choreography and singing that really stand out, both superbly done.

The Temptations long career and string of hits, plus the show’s sampling of other Motown hits of the era, mean that audience was energized and dancing nearly the whole time.

The combination of storytelling and performance is a perfect mix. This show guarantees at great time for early everyone, especially for the many Temptations fans. “Ain’t Too Proud” is on stage at the Fabulous Fox through Oct 2.

© Cate Marquis

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars