On January 28th, 2019, I had the privilege of watching “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life And Times Of The Temptations” on Broadway. The musical is a jukebox musical, meaning it is a show based on already-made songs. In this case, the show includes the grammy-winning songs of The Temptations. The Motown group is mostly known for its hit songs such as “My Girl,” “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” The musical is based on the book “Temptations” by group-founder Otis Williams. Williams is the only surviving member of the original group.
The cast consists of Derrick Baskin as Otis Williams, Ephraim Sykes as David Ruffin, Jelani Remy as Eddie Kendricks, James Harkness as Paul Williams, and Jawan Jackson as Melvin Franklin. On the night I attended, Otis was played by Curtis Wiley.
The show opened with the song “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” with lead vocals done by Jelani Remy. The show took off from there. There was never a dull moment. The dancing was incredibly tight, which was expected. The show won the Tony Award for Best Choreography, done by Sergio Trujillo. The show earned 11 Tony Nominations, including Best Leading Actor in a Musical for Derrick Baskin, Best Featured Actor in a Musical for both Jeremy Pope (the original Eddie Kendricks) and Ephraim Sykes.
Sykes was electric as David Ruffin. He brought the house to its feet by literally doing nothing. His first entrance in the show is him standing still to the opening of “My Girl,” and everyone in the audience, and when I say everyone I mean everyone, was on their feet. He truly shined in this role. “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” also had everyone rocking. “I’m Losing You” was an incredible display of vocal power by Sykes. I can see why he is slated to play Michael Jackson in the upcoming musical “MJ.”
Curtis Wiley did an amazing job filling in for Baskin; he played it about as good as anybody can. Jelani Remy was excellent as Eddie Kendricks. He brought down the house with numbers like “Get Ready” and “Just My Imagination.” I had the chance to meet up with him after the show, and he was very happy that we enjoyed the show so much.
James Harkness played Paul Williams, and he was fantastic. His character goes through a very rough change over the show, becoming an alcoholic due to his sickle-cell anemia. His song “For Once In My Life” was a real tear-jerker. After the show, I also got the chance to meet him. I commented on his great dance moves, and he laughed and said he wasn’t always like that.
Jawan Jackson played Melvin Franklin, who was the bass singer of the group. And boy let me tell you, he has one of the lowest voices I’ve ever heard. Watch this video if you don’t believe me: https://twitter.com/cdcaraballo08/status/1211341671851593728. He was smooth. I had a chance to chat with him for a while after the show, and I mentioned that I was also pursuing theatre and he thought the world of that. He thanked my mom for supporting the arts and mentioned that the arts should receive more support. He’s right by the way.
Other standout performances included Rashidra Scott as Josephine, Saint Aubyn as Dennis Edwards, Jarvis B. Manning as Al Bryant, and Candice Marie Woods as Diana Ross. The show was amazing, and if you are ever in New York, I recommend going to see it if you can.