‘Ain’t Too Proud’ on tour at Kennedy Center is hot fire

This must-see jukebox musical celebrates The Temptations’ unforgettable story of song, love, and heartbreak.

The Temptations’ legacy as one of the greatest soul groups of all time is indisputable. They continue to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide. Even today, their influence on today’s performers is evident.

The touring Broadway musical Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations tells the story of the group’s journey from Detroit to superstardom. The Kennedy Center’s presentation of the show is a must-see.

The Temptations rose to the top of the charts with their smooth dance routines and unforgettable harmonies in songs like “Just My Imagination,” “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” and “Get Ready.” The Temptations had 42 top-10 hits, 14 of which reached number one.

Harrell Holmes Jr. (as Melvin Franklin), Jalen Harris (Eddie Kendricks), Elijah Ahmad Lewis (David Ruffin), E. Clayton Cornelious (Paul Williams), and Michael Andreaus (Otis Williams) from the National Touring Company of ‘Ain’t Too Proud.’ Photo © 2023 Emilio Madrid.

Ain’t Too Proud is directed by Des McAnuff. The musical has an excellent book from the Motown Catalog. It was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won the 2019 Tony for Best Choreography. The book was written by three-time Obie Award winner Dominique Morisseau

The show is based on the book entitled The Temptations by Otis Williams, the group’s founder. The story starts with Williams’ humble beginnings on the streets of Detroit in the early 1960s as a juvenile delinquent and goes on to show how he started several groups (e.g., Otis Williams and the Distance) and eventually The Temptations. As Williams explained about the name, “Once you hear us sing, you’ll do anything.” Twenty-seven men have been Temptations since 1963.

Michael Andreaus powerfully commanded the stage in all his scenes. Throughout the show, Andreaus/Williams put out many philosophical bits of wisdom like “You can’t rewind nothing but a song.” I loved Andreaus’ solo in “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”

Williams pointed out how many groups don’t love the songs they find themselves singing for decades. He didn’t like “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” which sold 2 million copies and won 2 Grammys.

David Ruffin was depicted as a full-of-himself star. In his eyes, he was The Temptations. Ruffin and Williams had constant clashes. At one point, David and Eddie Kendricks formed their own version of the group.

Elijah Ahmad Lewis was a crowd pleaser as Ruffin. You could hear the “woops, “oos,” and “ahs” as he performed numbers like “Since I Lost My Baby.” His singing and dancing were phenomenal as well as his acting.

Jalen Harris brought swagger to his role as Eddie Kendricks. He embodied the Kendricks unforgettable coolness in tunes like “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”

Ruffin and Motown singer Tammi Terrell had a rocky relationship. Shayla Brielle G. was strong as Terrell and also got to sing as Supremes member Florence Ballard. Fight Director Steve Rankin and Fight Captain Nazarria Workman did good work making Ruffin’s physical altercation with Terrell look convincing.

Melvin Franklin, whose voice was “deeper than the devil,” was played by Harrell Holmes Jr. He had good rapport with Traci Elaine Lee, who played love interest Mary Wilson, a Supreme. Holmes was good in “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today).”

The Temptations had to fight Motown founder Berry Gordy over serious songs like “War.” Gordy, played by Jeremy Kelsey, believed that “music is colorblind but the world isn’t.” Gordy told them they had to present songs like that to white America “in a way that is digestible.” Edwin Starr went on to record and earn a hit from “War.”

Clayton Cornelious played Temptation Paul Williams, who suffered off-stage with health issues. Derek Adams played Motown legend Smokey Robinson, who helped craft some of The Temptations’ hits. The audience laughed at the Adams falsetto voice he gave Robinson.

McAnuff’s choreography was exceptional. I was amazed by every move. Arms and legs were synchronized perfectly.

Elijah Ahmad Lewis (as David Ruffin), Jalen Harris (Eddie Kendricks), Michael Andreaus (Otis Williams), Harrell Holmes Jr. (Melvin Franklin), and E. Clayton Cornelious (Paul Williams) from the National Touring Company of ‘Ain’t Too Proud.’ Photo © 2023 Emilio Madrid.

The production value was superb. The impressive sets included flown objects like the front grill of a Cadillac car, complete with working headlights. Scenic Designer Robert Brill did a fantastic job. Projection Designer Peter Nigrini made the streets come alive with cityscapes.

Costume Designer Paul Tazewell wonderfully evoked the ’60s and early ’70s. Hair and Wig Designer Charles G. LaPointe excelled, especially with the Supremes’ hair.

Music Director Kenny Seymour made the tunes singable. The orchestra made a cameo at one point. They included Conductor Johnathan “Smitti” Smith, Seth Farber on keyboard, Carl Burnett on guitar, Leo Smith on Bass, and Zack Albetta on drums.

This show is hot fire. Snag a ticket and stroll down to the Kennedy Center before it leaves town.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with a 20-minute intermission.

Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations plays through February 18, 2024, at the Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC. Purchase tickets ($59–$179) at the box office, online, or by calling (202) 467-4600 or toll-free at (800) 444-1324.

The program for Ain’t Too Proud is online here.

NOTE: If a performance is sold out, check back or call the Instant Charge Office at 202-467-4600 for availability. A limited number of $45 rush seats will become available at the box office window on the day of each performance. Limit 2 per person.

COVID Safety: Masks are optional in all Kennedy Center spaces for visitors and staff. If you prefer to wear a mask, you are welcome to do so. See Kennedy Center’s complete COVID Safety Plan here.

Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations
Based on the book entitled “The Temptations” by Otis Williams with Patricia Romanowski
Book by Dominique Morisseau
Music and Lyrics from The Legendary Motown Catalog
Music by arrangement with Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Orchestrations by Harold Wheeler
Arrangements by Kenny Seymour



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