The Temptations (formed in Detroit in 1960) are among the most successful groups in popular music, releasing a series of successful singles and albums beginning with the chart topping hit single “Cloud Nine” in 1968 on Motown Records. Selling tens of millions of albums during the 1960s and 1970s, the group pioneered psychedelic soul and significantly influenced the evolution of R&B and soul music. Though praised for their vocal talents, the band members are celebrated as well for their choreography, distinct harmonies, and classy dress style (a contrast to the seemingly preferred attire of current groups dressed as derelicts from “The Walking Dead”).
The show maintains the “jukebox musical” formula: the ruffled beginning as a narrator invokes the history of an upstart group of guys hoping to sing their way to the top of the pop music realm. From Detroit streets to the attention of Motown founder Berry Gordy, the Temptations develop their signature sound, singing their way to pop glory. Rough patches intrude on the journey, with internal conflicts, womanizing, and sex portrayed theatrically against a backdrop of race riots, anti-Vietnam War protests and drugs during the tempestuous 1960s. The propulsive show revives top of the chart memories; “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” “I Can’t Get Next to You,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” and, of course, the title song, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”
The story of the five guys who stirred the musical landscape is told in “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations” adapted from a book by original Temptations founder Otis Williams, who is the last man standing in the group (which is still performing with new members). From Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre the production, under the direction of Canadian Des McAnuff, joins a number of other “jukebox musicals” heading to, or are already, on Broadway.