December 27, 2023

Ottawa Fans Welcome “Ain’t Too Proud” Broadway Production

By Joy Osiagwu

(L – R)- Harrell Holmes Jr., Jalen Harris, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, E. Clayton Cornelious, Michael Andreaus from the National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud Credit: © 2023 Emilio Madrid.

 The classic Broadway production “Ain’t Too Proud – Life and Times of the Temptations” touched down in Ottawa with a bang the day after Christmas. The musical tour dramatized the memoir of Otis Williams, the founding member and only survival of the original five pioneers of the sensational vocal group from the ’60s to the ’70s, as they rose from a humble beginning in Detroit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group dominated the global music landscape for over fifty years with smash hits and sold-out shows with Motown Records.

The electrifying performances by the incredible and talented cast and band at the National Arts Centre brought back sweet memories for those who witnessed and enjoyed the melodious tunes of the unstoppable five young African American pioneer group and subsequent team members at the time. It also gave the more youthful generation a feel of the classic Temptations, whose music still soothes the soul while generating a palpable sense of joy.

 The traditional hit performances of the night included “Papa Was a Rolling Stone, and “My Girl“. 

Harrel Holmes Jr., Jalen Harris, Dwayne P. Mitchell, Michael Andreaus, E. Clayton Cornelious from the National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud. Credit: © 2023 Emilio Madrid.

Theme: Ain’t Too Proud’s over-arching theme is legendary and still relevant to life’s challenges today. The ability to move on in life despite the twists and turns placed on our paths seems to be the pivotal message of the eclectic biographical musical.

Plot: The show opens with the lead character, Otis Williams, taking the audience on a journey back to the 60s when and where it all began in Michigan. The storyteller’s narrative about the selection process for the group, the camaraderie, and the challenges of working with producers and promoters are similar to what we see today in the showbiz industry. The story also mirrors the political situation at the time and the challenges with racism, love, passion, loss, drug addiction, the dark side of teamwork, and the total summation of the price of fame. A unique quality of Otis Williams throughout the narrative was his firm belief in unity. He was always quick to recall Aristotle’s postulation of the “whole being greater than the sum of its parts” each time there was a crisis in the group.

 In the end, one thing was constant! Music! Music is the only constant in the equation- It lives forever- said Otis Williams in one of his commentaries.

– Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Jalen Harris, Michael Andreaus, Harrell Holmes Jr., E. Clayton Cornelious from the National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud. Credit: ©2023 Emilio Madrid.

This reporter observed the audience from time to time to read their countenance in between scenes. The undiluted exposé of the Temptations resonated with some audience members – The stories were real and relatable.

Production: The production was Top-notch and one of the best I have seen in recent times. It was a potpourri of everything about production and working in unison. The directors, actors, choreographers, singers, technical crew, exquisite lighting, sets, props, costumes, make-up artists- all had their hands in the pie, which led to the sweet and captivating two-and-a-half-hour show with an intermission. It was a collaborative theatre that knew the mission of the production. Little wonder it got intermittent standing ovations throughout the night. 

 Some audience members interviewed by BOS after the sold-out event acknowledged that the director of the show, Des Mc Anuff, and choreographer, Sergio Trujillo, did an excellent job with the overall production.

(L – R)- National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud. Credit: © 2021 Emilio Madrid.

Click on the link to watch the tour montage.