Get ready – here they are!
"Is not Too Proud" arrived Thursday night on Broadway, animated by a wave of nostalgia and a slew of Motown success. But anyone who has seen the previous jukebox show "Jersey Boys" or "Motown: The Musical" will inevitably feel a dull sense of déjà vu.
Subtitled "The Life and Times of Temptations" and woven from ancient gilding such as "Get Ready", "Just My Imagination" ("Escape With Me") and "Dad was a Stone" "The show is based on a book by Otis Williams, founder of the R & B supergroup – and his latest original member alive. While "ATP" delivers excellent performances, it is an evening where each issue is pained.
The story tells the story of the Detroit group's glory and its personal and political conflicts, which unfold effectively, even mechanically, in ways that "we did." Williams (Derrick Baskin) tells and presents his fellow countryman Time. There is his neighbor (no relation), Paul Williams (James Harkness), Melvin Franklin (Jackson Jawan), Eddie Kendricks (the phenomenal Jeremy Pope) and David Ruffin (Ephraim Sykes).
Dominique Morisseau's scenario essentially gives each man a main feature: Paul has slender dance movements, Ruffin's one is "addicted to the worst drug of all – the spotlight", and so on. Women in their lives, abused or left behind, hug each other. Motown's music mogul, Berry Gordy, appears from time to time to play the role of Svengali of Time.
The chill looks at the Temptations find their collective voice, their harmonies and their tight movements. "It's always bigger than the sum of its parts," Williams likes to say, and it's true. When the band plays "It's not too proud to start" on "American Bandstand" and "I'll make you love me" with Supremes in a NBC special show or Dr. Martin's mourning Luther King in "I Wish It Would Rain" (a dramatic twist that helps to establish an otherwise vague scenario), the songs enlighten the scene.
This is a good thing because a large part of the production is flooded with gray. A lesson on the power of humor of "The Cher Show" could help.
The big advantage is Sergio Trujillo's choreography, with its dazzling twists and turns and precise steps. The staging of Des McAnuff is a fog of familiarity: the director of the tubes "Jersey Boys" and Miss "Summer" relies on his usual tricks: kinetic characters, concert lighting, scrolling graphics, nude scenes. And things go very quickly after the expulsion of Ruffin.
"Is not Too Proud" is a fine tribute to a number that continues, although different singers are: Williams notes that there has been 24 Time since the early 60s, when the band started. Proud of this show is – but distinctive, it is not.