Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations
National Tour
Review by Bill Eadie

The Cast
Photo by Emilio Madrid
La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Emeritus Des McAnuff loves rock music, and in particular he loves staging shows about rock music. His San Diego career included The Who's Tommy, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, and, most famously, Jersey Boys. The tour of one of his latest productions, Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations is in town for a short run (closes Sunday, January 8) at the Civic Theatre. It's a flashy production with lots of songs that people of a certain age (including me) loved as they were growing up.

The story focuses on Otis Williams (Michael Andreaus), one of the founding members of The Temptations and the last surviving member of the group. Indeed, Dominique Morisseau's book was based on Mr. Williams' autobiography, and Mr. Williams serves along with Shelly Berger as the tour's executive producer. The book chronicles how the group was formed and how it changed over the years as it grew in popularity as part of Berry Gordy's (Jeremy Kelsey) Detroit-based "Motown Sound." The other founders were Al Bryant (Brett Michael Lockley), Melvin Franklin (Harrell Holmes, Jr.), Eddie Kendricks (Jalen Harris), and Paul Williams (E. Clayton Cornelious). Smokey Robinson (Omar Madden) wrote songs for the group, and Temptations members wrote their own songs as well.

Other band members were David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis), Dennis Edwards (Dwayne P. Mitchell), Richard Street (Devon Holloway), and Damon Harris (Omar Madden). Personnel changes happened frequently and sometimes without much explanation. Toward the end of the two-and-a-half hour, one intermission, production, all the one-time Temptations reappear to perform together.

With frequent comings and goings, the storyline can get confusing. Drug use, alcoholism, and family dysfunction also contribute to a maudlin mood that drags down interest in the plot.

Fortunately, the songs consistently rescue the day, with a long list of hits including "My Girl," "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)," and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," which are included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's list of "500 songs that Shaped Rock and Roll." A fine 12-piece orchestra led by music director Johnathan "Smitti" Smith keeps the energy level high. Sergio Trujillo's Tony Award-winning choreography keeps the Temptations and others moving sharply in Paul Tazewell's costumes.

The production relies heavily on Peter Nigrini's projections, which are well integrated into Robert Brill's scenic design and Howell Binkley's lighting design. I should single out Steve Canyon Kennedy's sound design, and Port City Technical's technical supervision, as the sound for Broadway/San Diego shows in the Civic Theatre is often deficient: the hall is a tough one to get right for touring shows with short runs. This one gets it right, albeit loud. It's rock 'n roll, though, right? (Note that I didn't say "only").

If you remember The Temptations, you'll probably have a great time listening to their music being recreated. Many of the songs are classic enough for your teenage family members to enjoy the show, too.

Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations runs through January 8, 2023, at San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Avenue, San Diego CA. Pay parking is available in a structure on the west side of the theatre complex, as well as at several pay parking lots within walking distance of the venue. Plan to arrive early for metal detector screening. Masks are encouraged but not required. For tickets and information, please visit For more information on the tour, visit

Other cast members were Shayla Brielle G, Traci Elaine Lee, Amber Mariah Talley, Quiana Onrae'l Holmes, Reed Campbell, and Felander. Other design credits were Charles G. Lapointe, Hair and Wig Design, Steve Rankin, Fight Director, Edgar Godineaux, Associate Choreographer, John Miller, Music Coordinator, Molly Meg Legal, Production Supervisor, Nicole Olson, Production Stage Manager, Logan Vaughn, Associate Director, Deborah J. Barrigan, Company Manager, Brian Harlan Brooks, Tour Resident Director, Tara Rubin Casting/Merri Sugarman, C.S.A., Casting, Linda J. Stewart, Associate Producer, Harold Wheeler, Orchestrations, and Kenny Seymour, Music Supervision and Arrangements.