“Ain’t Too Proud” wows with distinctive dance moves and indelible hit songs

The star of the traveling Broadway production “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” is choreographer Sergio Trujillo. Of course, the fact that dance dominates this musical biography reflects the Temptations’ ability to set themselves apart from so many other outstanding Motown artists with their distinctive moves. And it doesn’t hurt that their music, including “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, “My Girl”, “Daddy Was a Rollin’ Stone” and dozens more (they had 37 hits in the Top 40), spans more than half a century and has been embedded in American culture.

The Temptations’ position as the #1 band in rhythm and blues history makes them ideal for the Broadway jukebox musical treatment. Based on the original memoir by Temptation Otis Williams, “Ain’t Too Proud,” which runs at the Opera until May 1, brings together an unmissable creative team: director Des McAnuff and choreographer Trujillo, who collaborated on “Jersey Boys” and “Donna Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”. Ringer, if you will, is Dominique Morisseau, who wrote the musical’s book and whose plays, including “Skeleton Crew” and “Pipeline”, captures the love behind the work that can sometimes be difficult, in every sense of the word.

The challenge of giving Otis Williams all the responsibility for telling the story is that “Ain’t Too Proud” starts to feel like a slideshow of musical highlights told at high speed, with historical references thrown in every now and then for us. help you stay on track. While he tells us from the start that the focus of The Temptations has always been on the band, not the individuals, the interchangeability of members makes it harder to lock into a narrative about the people behind the music.

Linear storytelling slows down the drama, and cuts to alcohol, drugs, feminization, and marital breakdowns, plus nods to the social and political upheaval of the ’60s, feel more like checkboxes only revelations about individuals responding to the pressures of fame and the world around them. But when the show returns to featuring the Temptations’ music and jaw-dropping performances, audiences are immediately drawn in and ready to swoon.

This touring company features a high-energy cast that makes Trujillo’s endlessly inventive moves look classy and elegant. And, while every band member of the “classic five” Temptations gets a solo, James T. Lane as Paul Williams, Jalen Harris as tenor Eddie Kendricks (“Just My Imagination”) and Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin (“My Girl”) star the show, while Treston J. Henderson, as the band’s short-lived lead vocalist, steals every scene he’s in, even when he’s also playing the show. successful songwriter Norman Whitfield.

While the Temptations were praised for the blending of their vocals, the blending at the Opera favored the soloists, blurring the harmonies. That meant Harrell Holmes Jr., as the deep-voiced Melvin Franklin, got a bit lost in the shuffle, though he did help add some much-needed nuance to the production as a laid-back member of the band. Marcus Paul James as Otis Williams sang and danced with the rest of the band, but focused much of his energy on his storytelling duties.

There are scenes in the offices of Motown mastermind Berry Gordy when the tension between his notion of carefully cultivated crossover artists and the personal and creative needs of his artists seeps in and makes us lean forward. But there are too many years to cover, too many Temptations members to feature – a total of 25 appear on stage for a reunion tour – and too many songs to cover.

Even though the show dragged on a bit, the encore cover of “I Can’t Get Next to You,” which featured all the company members and revealed the band, including two drummers and a few horn players, left the audience dancing in the aisles.

ARE NOT TOO PROUD: The Life and Times of the Temptations

Presented by Broadway in Boston. At the Citizens Bank Opera House. Until May 1. Tickets start at $25. 888-616-0272, www.broadwayinboston.com

Terry Byrne can be reached at [email protected].