Iconic “Temptations” Broadway hit on Road Show Tour

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“A little bit of funk, a lot of love, a well of soul, and some of the smoothest moves ever known."

This closing line in the Broadway smash “Ain’t Too Proud - The Life and Times of the Temptations” – on the road touring the country and currently at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center -- triggers thunderous applause in standing ovations from the audience. The reaction is a testament to the heart-warming and heart-breaking appeal of the story tracing the legendary group’s journey from the mean streets of Detroit to superstardom Rock and Roll Hall of Fame success, making civil rights history.

The group crosses color lines and proves that music is color-blind.

The Temptations’ response to bigotry of the 1960s-70s era is a lesson for modern times, evident in a powerful scene where the band, touring the South, face gunfire and rejection from a biased hotel. Cowering overnight in their bus, instead of reacting with violence, they defiantly resolve to “cross-over” to reach mainstream (white) fans.

That they do, making history during the turbulence of the Vietnam War (debating whether fans would accept a protest song) and the civil rights movement punctuated by Martin Luther King’s assassination, that brings chills when the group sings “I Wish it Would Rain.”

What could be more cross-over as well, than the Black group, under contract with Motown’s inimitable Berry Gordy, accepting a Jewish manager, Shelly Berger, who brings them to greater heights, as the first Black group to perform on network NBC-TV.

The show treats us to music masterpieces which so many of us can sing along to, including “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” “Since I Lost My Baby” “Just My Imagination” “I Wish it Would Rain” “Get Ready” (the name of the road tour), the “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” duet with the Supremes, as well as “My Girl” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do” written by the iconic Smokey Robinson.

No wonder they were named by Billboard as the #1 R&B Artists of All Time.

Founder Otis Williams, who keeps a level head throughout the band members’ alcoholism, womanizing and drug abuse, narrates the story.

As a troubled 16-year old juvenile delinquent, he asks God to let singing be his salvation.

At the performance before the Broadway opening, I was thrilled to meet Otis, at an auspicious time, just before his 80th birthday. His appreciation for life and religion was moving.

“I’m thankful to God for every day I’m alive, for the music, and for this show,” he told me.

Otis’ philosophy of life is particularly powerful and meaningful to me as a psychologist, but also, clearly, to everyone.

“Brotherhood” is sacrosanct, as Otis and Melvin Franklin pledge to stay together forever. But “tough love” is meted out when brothers get out of line.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” says Otis, justifying his firing of bad-behaving band members who threaten the stability of the group. It’s a phrase attributed to Aristotle, that I also know well from gestalt therapy, that prioritizes the “team” over any one member.

Otis also warns about all “Temptations”. Fame brings trouble. The bigger the group got, with “bigger heads”, the more it tore them apart. Drugs. Alcohol. Suicide.

Health also dealt blows, with lung cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

The outstanding performances on the road show do brilliant justice to the original group.

The cast are charming and talented.

Jalen Harris (Eddie Kendricks) was discovered on Fox’s American Idol. Like Otis, he expresses gratitude to God.

Ever since he was 8 years old, Harrell Holmes Jr. (Melvin Franklin) says he wanted to be a Temptation. His dream has come true.

The ensemble glides through mesmerizing harmonies and the smoothest perfectly synchronized moves.

The Tempts also had sex appeal. Guiding the group's choreography, Paul demonstrates the moves to sensually outline the female figure.

The show's choreographer Sergio Trujillo won a TONY award for “Ain’t Too Proud” and also devised the dance moves for Broadway’s jukebox musical “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”, which I also loved.

The team behind the scenes is impressive. Orchestrator Harold Wheeler is well known for his 17 seasons as musical director for the ABC hit show “Dancing with the Stars.”

Producer Tom Hulce, who teams with Ira Pittleman, is familiar as an actor in Animal House, as Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, and in his Academy Award-nominated portrayal of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in “Amadeus”.

The play is based on Otis’ autobiography but the play’s actual “book” (the word used to refer to the storylines) was written by the elegant Dominique Morisseau, whose work on “Skeleton’s Crew” is due on Broadway, and who aptly once won a MacArthur Genius Grant, which supports creative people building a just and peaceful world.

No less notable in the theatre world is director Des McAnuff, whose Dodger Theatricals produced the long-running jukebox musical Jersey Boys about the Four Seasons.

In all the many performances of “Ain’t Too Proud” I’ve seen (I can’t get enough), audiences gasp at the characterization of over-the-top lead singer David Ruffin, “like lightning in a bottle”, as he splits while tossing the microphone in the air, loses control to hit lover and fellow Motown sensation Tammi Terrel, and descends into drug hell. But actor Elijah Ahmad Lewis brings another dimension to the drama.

“Playing the icon David Ruffin is a privilege,” Lewis told me. “People always see the bad parts, but I love depicting the ‘other side’ of David who loved the sense of family and brotherhood, and to joke around. It’s his humanness.”

The Temptations appeal to everyone, familiar to people from all countries, backgrounds and generations. That was clear from the pre-show parties I co-hosted with my good friend Jan duPlain, special events producer extraordinaire who knows everyone in DC.

The first exciting night, starting with an extravagant reception at the fabulous boutique hotel the Ven on Embassy Row, was co-hosted by my dearest friend, His Excellency Sidique Wai, Ambassador of the Embassy of Sierra Leone to the United States. I had taken him to the Broadway show, but I knew he and his family would love to see the tour. His DC Ambassador friends from ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West Africa States) and colleagues (with whom we just did a major DC event for the Sierra Leone First Ladies’ #HandsOffOurGirls project) all knew about the Temptations and effused about the show. Everyone joyfully sported their “Ain’t Too Proud” t-shirt gifts from the concession.

Having been an effective community organizer before taking up his diplomatic post, Ambassador Wai appreciated the groups’ role in bringing all people together.

“The Temptations are a shining example of what is needed in American today to bring interfaith and interracial harmony today”.

After the extended standing ovation for the performance, which kept the cast on stage to thunderous applause, several of us – myself with Ambassador Wai and the Ven’s effervescent Holland Mitchell -- went to the stage door, delighted to congratulate cast members Elijah Ahmad Lewis (who plays tragic showman David Ruffin) and Harris Matthew (Dennis Edwards, who replaces the fired Ruffin), Marcus Paul James (Otis) as well as Jalen Harris (Eddie Kendricks) and Harrell Holmes Jr. (Melvin Franklin’s astonishing trademark bass sound), both of whom I had met in New York after the Broadway show, when they were rehearsing.

My second group of guests, gathered at a delightful pre-show reception at the Kennedy Center Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, also all raved about the show. They should know, being discerning culture mavens, from the likes of Theatre Washington, Destination DC, Events DC, the World Trade Center, the Mayor’s Office, and DC’s high-powered legal world.

Sharing the experience with one of the show’s co-producers, 8-time TONY award winner and good friend Jamie deRoy, was a treat.

“No matter how many times I see the show, it always feels new and fresh and I never get tired of it,” said deRoy.

That night, cheering the cast post-show again at the stage door, Deri’Andra Tucker, who sparkles on stage as the Supremes’ red-sequined-gowned Diana Ross, joined our group photo.

To hear glowing interviews I did on WOL-AM 1450 and 95.9FM, with compelling hosts Kei-Touch and Coach “Butch” McAdams, see their websites. https://woldcnews.com/schedule/the-butch-mcadams-show/ and https://www.facebook.com/DJKeiTouchBookings/

“I love the passion of the Temptations,” said “Coach Butch” who showed his great passion on the air. "The Temptations are my all-time favorite group," the Baby Boomer announced, joyfully singing "You gotta smile so bright, you could've been a candle" and lines from less well-known tunes, "Don't let the Joneses get you down" and "I'm doing fine on Cloud 9".

"The group was always evolving, obvious in 'Psychedelic Shack'," the aficionado recounts. "They have a lasting legacy, even hip hop and rappers sample them." Favoring Otis' advice that 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts', he wisely points out how that applies to a sports team, business, or family. I heartily agree! I gave that advice often to callers over my decades on the radio, stressing how 2 C's -- compromise and cooperation - are crucial in my "Complete Idiots Guide to A Healthy Relationship."

"It's not about being Black or white, its' about being an American," said the high-energy DJ, Kei-touch, adding, "I am also pushing hard to break barriers." Once in a high school marching band herself, she tells me fondly how the Jackson state University uses the Temptations' "Get Ready" as their theme song.

The younger fan found "the show amazing, and the actors and production absolutely outstanding." Listen to her compelling and fun interview with me at: https://woldcnews.com/2179006/dr-judy-kuriansky-l-the-outlet-with-kei-to...

Be sure to catch the remaining performances at the Kennedy Center, through the matinee on Sunday, January 16. Tickets are at:
https://www.kennedy-center.org/whats-on/explore-by-genre/theater/2021-20...

Check out the tour dates for tickets to see the show during its first national touring across the country:
https://ainttooproudmusical.com/tour/

The company is fully vaccinated and every venue is taking careful health precautions.

Spread the word. friends will love you for it.
Tweet: @AintTooProud and #AintTooProud

My visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture put the Temptations story in perspective, from the 1400s Transatlantic Slave Trade (reminding me of the powerful statue on the United Nations plaza) to Segregation and Defending Freedom (with horrifying lynchings and heroines less well-known but no less brave as Rosa Parks, including the family of my friend, TV reporter Shannon LeNier, the 6th great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson with his enslaved concubine Sally Hemings), through the 1960s and to modern-day, complete with an exhibit floor of music memorabilia.

I am forever grateful to my producer friend Harriet Leve who got me involved in this electrifying experience, reviving my youth as a fan, and propelling me into renewed appreciation and awe of this slice of American music and civil rights history.

“Get Ready” to laugh, cry, rock, and fall in love with the group, and color-blind music which brings us all together.

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