With The Temptations being a household name, chances are you have heard a few of their songs. Throughout the decades they have become known for their dreamy love ballads and superb harmonies. My personal favorite, “My Girl,” makes me light up whenever I hear it. Despite knowing their music for years, I did not know much about the group itself and I was not prepared for the moving story they would tell.
AIN’T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS tells, as you may have guessed, the story of The Temptations. It primarily focuses on the “Classic Five” Era, which included Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, and David Ruffin. Throughout the production, the audience witnesses their meteoric rise to fame and their unfortunate falling out.
The play starts in 1960s Detroit when the group was first created. It opens with lively and upbeat discussions and songs, capturing the excitement surrounding Motown. Motown, especially in Detroit, wasn’t just a music genre, it was a way to make a living for these young men. The group meets record executive Berry Gordy and officially becomes The Temptations because “once you hear them sang, you’ll want every-thang.”
The show then skyrockets into a spectacular production; it’s as if I was in the middle of a Temptations concert in the height of their career. The signature “boy band” dance moves are sharp and athletic, moving at a quick pace. There is even the occasional split jump which is always impressive to see. What made it even more impressive is seeing them continue to sing flawlessly while performing these dance moves.
At this point, there is a switch in tone. What started as fun and excitement soon moves to dark and chaotic. Cracks in the band start to show as fame brings big egos, mental health problems, and addiction lead to explosive fights and life altering decisions. David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis) and Paul Williams (E. Clayton Cornelious) take the brunt of the heartbreaking scenes as they are unable to face their demons which ultimately leads to their downfall. Despite hard to watch scenes, I was constantly rooting for The Temptations to reconnect over their brotherly bond.
By the end of the show, we are left with the somber reminder that the only thing you can rewind in life is music. Tell people you love them often and spend quality time with those you love because you never know when a moment will be your last. AIN’T TOO PROUD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS is playing now through November 12 at the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center. Learn more here.