Reviews are coming in for the West End premiere of Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations at the Prince Edward Theatre in London.
Ain’t Too Proud is the true story of extraordinary R&B group The Temptations, following their journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
This production is from the creators of Jersey Boys, and is a Tony Award-winning musical tribute to the Motown group executive-produced by Otis Williams, the founder and only living member of the original “classic five”.
The show stars Cameron Bernard Jones as Melvin Franklin, Kyle Cox as Paul Williams, Sifiso Mazibuko as Otis Williams, Tosh Wanogho-Maud as David Ruffin and Mitchell Zhangazha as Eddie Kendricks.
The cast also includes Evonnee Bentley-Holder, Natalia Brown, Ryan Carter, Hannah Fairclough, Christopher Gopaul, Daniel Haswell, Naomi Katiyo, Akmed Junior Khemalai, Holly Liburd, Darnell Mathew-James, Simeon Montague, Posi Morakinyo, Sadie-Jean Shirley, Michael James Stewart, Toyan Thomas-Browne, Dylan Turner and Kevin Yates.
The show features hits including My Girl, Just My Imagination, Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone and more, and boasts a book by playwright Dominique Morisseau, direction by Tony Award winner Des McAnuff, and choreography by Tony and Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujilio.
Other creatives on the show include Scenic design is by Robert Brill, Costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Steve Canyon Kennedy, projection design by Peter Nigrini, Hair and Wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, Music Supervision and Arrangements are by Kenny Seymour, Orchestrations by Harold Wheeler and Music Direction by Matt Smith.
Read reviews from all major UK publications, with more reviews to follow.
Book tickets to Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations at the Prince Edward Theatre in London
Ain't Too Proud - The Life And Times Of The Temptations reviews
"Hits and winning performances draw you in"
"Slickly entertaining version of the Temptations’ turbulent story"
"They all impressively replicate the Temptations’ harmonies and signature dance moves, choreographed here by Sergio Trujillo, that propel the story with real dynamism in a show in which the music barely stops (the finale reveal of the onstage band, who play from behind the scenery, rightly gets a huge cheer)."
"Yes, Dominique Morisseau’s book can be clunky with exposition, and big events feel shoehorned in – the result of packing decades into a couple of hours. But the leads give such winning performances that you find yourself invested in their story. And with a soundtrack of the Temptations’ greatest hits, many of them stitched into our pop culture, it’s hard not to have a good time."
"Hits galore will thrill their fans - but this Temptations tribute lacks soul"
"Ain't Too Proud is a catalogue musical in more ways than one. Not just a round-up of awesomely great tunes by the legendary R&B vocal group from Detroit, it's also a list of historical footnotes yoked to the self-affirming CV of The Temptations' founding member, Otis Williams."
"... the best catalogue musicals, like Mamma Mia! or Jersey Boys, make more of their stories. Here we just get a smattering of historical events, from Martin Luther King to the Vietnam War, augmented by a predictable plod from the early days of the group."
"And although choreography is tightly executed over the two hours and 40 minutes, it doesn't much exceed elastic martial arts moves, as if The Temps were fighting off invisible foes in The Matrix. And yet, as a well-drilled tribute act, who can doubt these fine performers — or the enduring power of songs like Ball Of Confusion? Truly, that's what the world is today — hey, hey."
"The Temptations musical won’t get you dancing in the aisles"
"In its prime, Motown ran a ruthlessly efficient quality control operation, so it’s ironic that this jukebox celebration of one of the label’s greatest acts, the Temptations, turns out to be maddeningly erratic. Hardcore fans will still be, ahem, tempted to buy a ticket. Everyone would probably be better off running through a playlist on a streaming service."
"... I’d argue that it’s hard to find a stronger collection of hits from any vocal group from the Sixties and Seventies."
"This uneven show did have a run on Broadway. But the attempt to repackage the story of a group that is still going strong, albeit with only one surviving founder member in Otis Williams, is sabotaged by downmarket production values and a clumsy, confusing book by Dominique Morisseau..."
"What’s even more frustrating is that the real-life back story has so much potential. The Temps were riven by internal rivalries, and there was no end of sex ’n’ drugs, too. Yet Morisseau’s script limps from one fragmentary episode to another."
"The Temptations’ story told with little nuance but lots of heart"
"Impeccably choreographed, beautifully staged and exquisitely sung, this Motown fable is one jukebox musical that's definitely worth a look"
"It’s impeccably choreographed down to the last finger-click, beautifully staged (by Des McAnuff, who obtains and maintains an imposing monochrome aesthetic) and the singing is exquisite. Sure, the script by Dominique Morisseau is subtle as a brick... Yet its efficiency ensures the evening packs almost 30 numbers into the mix, and it conveys the remorseless operating principle that “made” the group but broke some of its members."
"A Temptations jukebox musical by numbers"
"This plodding account of the Motown band’s highs and lows is more than a little soulless"
"The actors sing with vigour and perform the athletic dance moves that made the group so distinctive, with nice period choreography by Sergio Trujillo. But the narrative in Dominique Morisseau’s book, which should bring these men to life, feels so skating, sketchy and divorced from the songbook that the production feels hollowed of an emotional centre. Rarely has a show of its kind felt more like a jukebox musical by numbers."
"Little is expanded upon on the concert-like set on which a Cadillac, a desk or a line of men’s urinals occasionally glide on and off, while the songs themselves are sometimes truncated rather than sung in full. It all feels too safe and more than a little soulless."
"This competent Temptations jukebox musical never really makes a particularly strong case for the legendary group"
"If some jukebox musicals suffer from a flimsy plot, then Broadway import ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ has the opposite problem. This story of Motown vocal quintet The Temptations has more plot complications than its stars have dapper satin suit jackets."
"Playwright Dominique Morisseau tells their stories with more efficiency than emotion, only hinting at the pain underneath their silky smooth harmonies."
"... although director Des McAnuff was at the helm of award-winning smash ‘Jersey Boys’, which put the music centre stage, it feels like the songs are edged out a bit here."
"There are so many other individual arcs Morisseau could have pulled out and emphasised. But in trying to cover massive themes like racism and domestic violence in passing, this show risks making light of them: a scene where a female fan's bum is grabbed gets an awkward laugh from the audience."
"Temptations musical rolls out hit after Motown hit"
"Compilation musicals have had a bad press, but this is a hugely superior example of the genre"
"Hit after peerless Motown hit rolls out in this slick, well-drilled, jukebox musical from Broadway, about the “number one group in the history of rhythm and blues”, The Temptations."
"It’s basically two-plus hours of Sixties and Seventies bangers... performed to fiercely demanding choreography, and loosely strung on a sleevenotes-style history of the group’s personal and professional ups and downs. And it’s none the worse for that. Never mind the narrative; just listen to that back catalogue."
"Choreographer Sergio Trujillo’s ruthlessly demanding choreography has the cast jinking like a drill troupe, twirling like gymnasts and at times undulating like boneless anemones."
"But this show is really about the performances of those timeless songs. There isn’t a duff voice on stage..."
"Compilation musicals have had a bad press, recently and historically. This one is a hugely superior example of the genre."
"Plodding musical squanders the joy of The Temptations"
"There is nothing here to tempt punters who are not already fans of the group"
"The tempo among spectators remains resolutely unroused right until the end, and that is not a promising sign. There is nothing here to tempt punters who are not already confirmed fans of the long-running American group, the first Motown recording act to win a Grammy."
"What audience members at jukebox musicals crave is a transcendent moment of release through the sheer joy of the songs. This stubbornly does not happen and fine hits such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” are squandered uneventfully, rather than being squeezed for maximum impact."
"Thirty R’n’B classics are crowbarred into a night of close harmonies, cool-suited dance routines and the usual narrative. Discovery leads to stardom, excess, downfall and survival. Or not."
"This sort of thing has been done before but seldom so efficiently or with so many producers..."
"Average age in the audience must have been 70 and they lapped it up. After all the personal tragedies, we were told “the only thing that lives for ever is the music”, and around me a chorus of voices warbled: “Yes!”"
"The Temptations are the latest pop legends to get the jukebox treatment in Ain’t Too Proud, a show bubbling with brilliant performances but labouring with a thinly written book."
"... by packing so much in, the script has no time for proper detail; the women in the story get particularly short shrift"
"The staging is smart, however. There are witty touches to Des McAnuff’s pin-sharp direction... Tosh Wanogho-Maud and Mitchell Zhangazha are terrific and charismatic as David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks."
Prince Edward Theatre, London