Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, by Dominque Morisseau, opened on Broadway in 2019 and received 11 Tony Award nominations. The show is a jukebox musical, based on the lives of the members of The Temptations, incorporating their extensive back catalogue. The show is now running at the Prince Edward Theatre in the West End.

Credit: Johan Persson

The show begins in Detroit, and we meet Otis Williams (Sifiso Mazibuko) as he forms the band. The opening number ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do’ starts the show off with a bang, bursting with energy, although I did feel the dancing was not as tight as it ought to be within this number. Whilst good, the five weren’t quite as in sync as one would expect, though this appeared to be an anomaly, as throughout the rest of the numbers the cast was tight, sharp, and together in perfect unison. 

Peter Nigrini’s designs are projected onto the back and sides of the stage, most of these are grey, and for the most part, this fits in with the location the scene is set within. There is one projection of raindrops which has a cartoonish look to it, this seems out of place compared to the other projections; but otherwise, these designs complemented the storytelling and allowed for smooth scene transitions without clunky set pieces. Howell Binkley’s lighting gives the show a concert feel at times with colourful disco lights and contrastingly lights the more heartfelt moments with a warm, tender glow.

The entire company displays strong, faultless vocals, but a special mention is necessary to Michael James Stewart whose deep, rich vocals make ‘Shout’ a highlight of the show, with a stunning falsetto at the end of the song. The true star of this show, however, is Tosh Wanogho-Maud as David Ruffin, an absolute force to be reckoned with and the definition of a triple threat. Wanogho-Maud oozes charisma, has a suave, cool air about him, and an energy which never dissipates, he is a captivating presence on the stage, and my eyes were drawn to him throughout.

Credit: Johan Persson

Ain’t Too Proud is from the creators of Jersey Boys, and there are similarities, red blazers, and all. Although in this show the focus is placed more on Otis Williams, who acts as our guide throughout the years. We do find out information about the members of the group, however, the run time isn’t divided equally as it is in Jersey Boys – most likely because there are too many past members of The Temptations to get through.

Des McAnuff’s direction is magnetic, with smooth scene transitions, and great pacing, he allows the most poignant, emotive moments to fully land and be as impactful as possible, by having them play out with complete silence in the background. I do feel that some of the run time could be shaved off, particularly in Act One, which sets up the story but lacks the emotions that Act Two contains as we dig deeper into the personal lives of the characters, as the curtain falls on their own lives.

Credit: Johan Persson

It’s becoming increasingly common in jukebox musicals to cram as many songs into the show as possible, especially, I’ve noticed in biopic musicals, such as this. Ain’t Too Proud contains a huge 29 musical numbers, but all of these are well thought out, and the placement of each song works, progressing the show’s plot. My only gripe is that some of the songs could be longer, rather than just a minute (or less) of the song, it would be nice for some of them to be full length – particularly ‘My Girl’ and ‘For Once in My Life’.

With slick choreography, brilliant performances, and great direction, Ain’t Too Proud is a stellar show that will leave you on ‘Cloud Nine’, an incredibly fun show with some of the best vocal performances you can hear in the West End, so ‘Get Ready’ to be blown away. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ain’t Too Proud is booking until the 1st October 2023, with tickets from £25! You can find out more info here.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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