By Ramiro Bustamante Torres, September 22 2023—
Broadway brings to Canadian stages a musical based on the life of the Temptations, an R&B and soul vocal group from Detroit that began their career in the 1960s, called Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations. The title of the musical is taken from a song of theirs called “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Playing in Calgary Sept. 19 to 24 at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium, you can expect a lively performance that will have you celebrate the groups’ accomplishments and lament their losses.
The musical brings in the audience immediately with a quick performance of a song from the Temptations which sets the tone for the beginning of the group through Otis Williams’ (Marcus Paul James, opening night) memories. He runs through an introduction on how as a Texan boy he ended up in Detroit and found the members that would form the “Classic Five” members of the Temptations. Apart from Otis Williams, the group consisted of Melvin Franklin (Harrel Holmes Jr.), Eddie Kendricks (Jalen Harris), Paul Williams (E. Clayton Cornelious) and David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis). Together they were the core group the rest of the musical revolved around. Each performer stood out in their role with moments that had the audience clapping along and bursting into applause for their performances.
The music is largely composed of songs from the Temptations with some other groups showing up such as Diana Ross and the Supremes with a few of their hits to reflect the competition both groups had to be at the top of Mowtown. Their competition with a fellow group was not their only obstacle. In-group fighting and the political tensions of the civil rights movement were the backdrop of the musical. Being a story of African-Americans when segregation was still rampant, the backdrop came forward as the Temptations faced racism indirectly since Black performers had difficulty reaching a wider audience, and directly since they were attacked due to the colour of their skin.
The Temptations struggled with fame as each member would sacrifice something the closer they got to the top. Even as the music and performances would get more elaborate and exciting, there would be snippets of their personal lives and their surroundings falling apart such as in their hometown with the 1967 Detroit riot and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. We get to see how the group started to move away from the “Classical Five” as old members are kicked out and new ones join. In the musical Otis Williams keeps saying, “All progress requires sacrifice,” and with every sacrifice the Temptations would thrive as a whole but individually they all have lost something or someone. As the songs wove in and out with the story, it kept you on the edge of your seat since you were never ready for the next musical number to drop a turning point for the story.
For all-time fans of the Temptations, this is an exciting musical with all their hits and fan favourites, and for anyone who only knew of them in passing, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know more about the group and what they accomplished as pioneers of soul music and enjoy a captivating performance.
For more information on the performance or updates and upcoming productions, check out Broadway Across Canada’s website here.