Since Motown founder Berry Gordy assembled a five-member singing group he introduced in the sixties as The Temptation, there has been 23 Black men introduced onstage to being ‘tall, talented, temptin’ Temptations.’
Renowned throughout the decades for their choreographed dance routines, snappy fashion sense, suave vocal delivery, poetic rhymes, interchangeable lead front-men, multi-faceted harmonies and finger-snapping tunes, the group provided a musical soundtrack to generations of diverse audiences.
Emerging from Detroit in 1960 they rose to the top of the charts amassing 42 Top Ten hits, acquiring 14 number one songs on the Billboard charts resulting with acknowledgement from the music fraternity and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Through the years, tragedies and other unforeseen circumstances have impacted change and replacements that now leave Otis Williams, the only living original member of the group that first began with Eldridge “Al” Bryant, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks and Williams.
To that end, it is Williams’ testimony that has made its way onto the Imperial Theater stage of the Great White Way.
Adapted from a book he penned titled “The Temptations,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, musical sensation recently opened to SRO audiences anxious to chorus or echo every lyric recorded more than half a century ago until now.
Through a bare stage nostalgic reprise, Williams pays tribute to the city, genre, songwriters, family, friends and collaborators who aided the elevation of rhythm and blues and Motown’s most prominent septet.
The title harkens back to the 1966 track led by David Ruffin that for a time found permanence on radio playlists throughout the nation.
Written by Norman Whitfield and Edward Holland Jr., Whitfield gets the lion’s share of all hit tracks recorded by the winning Temps.
Although there was nary a mention of the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team that ruled the Motown stable with Robinson, a barrage of hits featuring: “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Papa Was A Rollingstone,””Since I Lost My Baby,” “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” “War,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” “Ball of Confusion (Cloud Nine),” “Runway Child, Running Wild,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “Get Ready” and others honed the spotlight.
And when Jeremy Pope (Kendricks) Ephraim Sykes (Ruffin) Jawan M. Jackson (Franklin) James Harness (Paul Williams) and Derrick Baskin (Otis Williams) reprise the heydays, occupied seats that also spotlighted another musical hit — “Dreamgirls”— behind, in front of and next to breaking all the rules to sing out loud the soundtrack of everyone’s wonder years.
Talent is abounding.
Biographical details are engaging.
More than anything, it is Motown at its best.
With The Supremes making brief appearance featuring Taylor Symone Jackson (Mary Wilson) Nasia Thomas (Florence Ballard) Candice Marie Woods (Diana Ross) and Christian Thompson (Smokey Robinson) Jahi Kearse (Berry Gordy) Saint Aubyn (Dennis Edwards) E. Clayton Cornelious (Dennis Street) Christian Thompson (Damon Harris) Shawn Bowers (Lamont Dozier) and references to Marvin Gaye etc. the Motor City invasion seemed real.
Also makes one wonder the arrival dates for spotlights on The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
In this production orchestration by Harold Wheeler and musical direction and arrangement from Kenny Seymour delivers an incomparable musical revue that audiences of every age will revel and appreciate.
Score one for the ensemble, simply spectacular.
If you missed “Motown The Musical,” catch this biographical snippet of a legendary, musical configuration.
Above all get ready, because when the music stops, there are plenty of merchandise to keep the beat alive and memorable.