Prince Edward Theatre, London
A hit on Broadway, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, has finally opened in the West End and is a thoroughly entertaining, charismatic and soulful journey. The musical, with a book by Dominique Morisseau, is a breathtaking celebration of the legendary Motown group, The Temptations, and their iconic music. Taking you on a journey through the highs and lows of stardom, it showcases how some of the most famous music was created and provides a really really fun night out.
The heart and soul of this musical are the performances which are unanimously nothing short of spectacular. The cast deliver powerhouse vocals that charm and mesmerise throughout and there are so many standout moments. The whole cast are spectacularly strong but mention must go to Cameron Bernard Jones, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Ryan Carter and Michael James Stewart who really shine in their solo and ensemble moments. Each member who becomes part of The Temptations, does so with a real sense of nuance and the varying personalities and talents are showcased throughout; really capturing the essence and ethos of the original group.
Above all this is an ensemble piece, with some of the strongest moments coming when the cast unite both vocally and choreographically. Sergio Trujillo’s choreography is some of the best in the West End right now, the sheer slickness and precision is a wonder to behold and the energy created on stage is supremely infectious. Featuring iconic hits like ‘My Girl’, ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ and ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’, the show is a top-tapping fest of gusto and spirit.
The storytelling is mostly compelling, and the narrative (led by Sifiso Mazibuko) is engaging from the start. Spanning the long and tumultuous history of The Temptations, from their humble beginnings to their rise to stardom the show has a lot to fit in, and especially in the first act it feels a bit too much. Whilst every performance is engaging, it does feel a little too long and seems to keep going even when there’s a natural break point.
However, the story is a poignant and emotional one that delves into the personal struggles, triumphs, and dynamics of the group and includes some powerful messages. Alongside the musical elements, the show touches on themes of friendship and brotherhood, as well as shedding light on the social and political challenges faced by The Temptations and African American artists during that era. A poignant reminder of their impact on American music history and the enduring legacy they left behind, Ain’t Too Proud is a strong celebration of The Temptations.
Ain’t Too Proud is a wonderful addition to the West End that features dazzling production value, and timeless music. A celebration of The Temptations and their impact on Motown, it will leave you humming their hits long after the curtain falls.
Reviewed on Wednesday 19th April 2023
photo credit: Johan Persson