DETROIT – The party started outside of the Detroit Opera House with the Detroit Youth Choir doing what they do best. A crowd was forming as it got closer to showtime. A red carpet lined Madison Street with a path to the entrance of the 100-year-old palace. The Temptations were coming home, though they might look a little different.
Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations, the 2018 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, finally makes its way to the city that birthed the legendary group. There was an electric energy in Downtown Detroit as theatergoers patiently waited to see the “Get Ready” crooners come back to life on stage.
The show ran on Broadway from 2019 through January 2022, with a year and a half suspension due to the pandemic. The first national tour, which began December 2021, will be performing an extended three-week production at the Opera House here in Motown, giving Michiganders plenty of time to catch the show.
This particular night had some very special guests in the audience. Otis Williams, the founder and the last surviving member of the original group, sat in one of the front rows to watch his life story play before his eyes. As he walked in with a full camera crew, the audience stood up to applause the living legend, with chants of “Otis! Otis!” ringing in the theater. Dominique Morisseau, the Detroit native who wrote Ain’t Too Proud’s book, was also there to watch the words she wrote spoken in front of a packed 2,700-person audience.
After a slightly late start to accommodate the special events of the evening, the lights dimmed as the “Fox Theatre” on stage revealed the original five going straight into “The Way You Do The Things You Do.” The crowd instantly roared in applause as if The Temptations really were right before them. This started the rollercoaster of hit after hit, as Otis Williams, played by original Broadway cast member Marcus Paul James, narrated the origins of the band and how each member came to be. Detroit is mentioned instantly which got an immediate reaction from the audience.
From there, it’s non-stop high-octane energy for the next two and a half hours. As each song is introduced, the crowd cheers knowing that, for the next few moments, they’re about to experience a beloved song performed live in front of their very eyes. But not only are these Temps singing through the entire show, they are jumping, dancing and doing all sorts of stunts in perfect synchronization. David Ruffin, played by Elijah Ahmad Lewis, even does several impressive jump splits. And among all the dance moves, costume changes and acting scenes, there’s never a foot or note out of place from any of The Temps.
Part of the fun, especially since much of the story is set in Detroit, is seeing and hearing the references to our city. From the significance of the auto industry to our many music venues, and, of course, to Motown Records, Detroit plays a central character to the overall story of The Temptations. It felt like Morisseau dropped these winks to the city to provide authenticity in its setting.
Not only do we get The Temps, but we’re also treated to The Cadillacs, The Supremes and some other surprising cameos that I do not want to ruin.
If you’re a fan of The Temptations or even just a fan of Detroit history, you will learn and appreciate a lot in Ain’t Too Proud. From the energetic cast’s smooth moves and sultry vocals to the record-breaking music of The Temps, Ain’t Too Proud is a celebration of Detroit resilience and the music that will live on forever.
Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations runs at the Detroit Opera House through August 28, 2022. For the show schedule and to purchase tickets, visit the Detroit Opera House box office or visit BroadwayinDetroit.com.