If you already have tickets, “Get Ready” to have a great time at Ain’t Too Proud, the latest in a series of jukebox musicals playing at the Providence Performing Arts Center. And if you don’t have tickets, I suggest you pick some up fast, you won’t regret it!
The lively musical tells the story of the legendary Motown band The Temptations, from their humble origins to their ultimate success, recalling the challenges and setbacks along the way. The show is a hit – the original Broadway production was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 2019, and won the prize for “Best Choreography.”
At PPAC through Sunday April 17, “ATP” is a well-paced entertaining show, aimed to please die-hard Temps fans as well as more casual listeners. The highlight is of course the music and dance – the production features flawless re-creations of the band’s celebrated dance moves with over 30 songs sprinkled throughout the show.
Ain’t Too Proud fully engages the audience, to the point where you sometimes forget you’re at a play, and not an actual Temptations concert. It’s seriously confusing at times, with call and response songs like “Shout” leading to audience participation you’d expect to see at a Temps concert.
The story of The Temptations, a band “raised up on that gospel,” is front and center. Formed in Detriot at the height of the Motown era, they excelled on timeless classic like “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” The band went on to become the first Motown group to win a Grammy Award (“Cloud Nine,” 1969) and are the top selling Rhythm and Blues group of all time.
Based on the memoir of founding member Otis Williams, (well played by Marcus Paul James), the musical tells the story of one of the first African American bands to “cross over” to white audiences. That’s the central theme of this tale, as the band is guided by Motown founder Berry Gordy, who urges caution while the members push to make music that is more political. Gordy eventually gives in, and they record inspired late 60’s/early 70’s hits like “Cloud Nine,” and “Ball of Confusion.”
The story is familiar in many ways – a band comes together on the streets, works through a few line-up changes, hones their sound, gets discovered, makes a hit single, and a few more, struggles with fame, changes direction, and goes down in history. There’s a lot of tragedy happening too; drugs and disease took their toll on the band and only Williams lived into the 21st century. (He still plays with the band when they tour.)
The musical doesn’t shy away from the less glamourous side of life on the road, revealing how excess drug use nearly destroyed the band. The story also explores Williams’ estranged relationship with his son Otis Lamont Miles, who died tragically in a construction accident at age 23.
The story also includes segments from their “rivals” at Motown, including Diana Ross and the Supremes. Ross is played exceptionally well by Deri’Andra Tucker, who looks and sounds just like the original diva. “ATP” loosely ties the music to historical events including the Detroit riots of 1967 and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. No doubt, these events impacted the band who struggled to find that sweet spot between activism and entertainment. But music overrides politics in this production.
We recommend it without reservation – you’ll have a great time!