Temptations tour brings Tony-winning choreography to Connecticut

HARTFORD – The hit Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” opened at the Bushnell Theater on Tuesday evening to a standing ovation. The jukebox musical is set in Detroit in 1963 and follows the whirlwind musical career of the Temptations over 20 years through a tribute to their most famous hits. 

While any tribute to the Temptations wouldn’t be complete without quite a bit of singing and dancing, the electric choreography of “Ain’t Too Proud” stands out. While most musicals use dance to add a little razzle-dazzle to the story, the choreography of “Ain’t Too Proud” does much more:  it builds character, advances the narrative and marks the passage of time. 

As the show progresses, the Temptations of “Ain’t Too Proud” go from singing R&B love ballads of the 60s to the funky dance numbers of the 80s. Nevertheless, “Ain’t Too Proud” doesn’t re-stage old recordings of Temptations choreography, but reimagines them for the theater. 

“Ain’t Too Proud” choreographer Sergio Trujillo won a Tony Award in 2019 for Best Choreography, the first Latino to do so. During his acceptance speech, he thanked the team behind “Ain’t Too Proud,” his husband and his Colombian family, who taught him to love music and dance since he was a little boy. 

"I arrived in this country over 30 years ago as an illegal immigrant. And I stand here as proof that the American dream is still alive. You just have to keep on fighting because change will come," he said during his speech, to a standing ovation.

“To all of those of you who are listening to me right now, I want you to know that if I, Sergio Trujillo, born in Cali, Colombia, can get to this moment, you can do it, too,“  he added in Spanish. 

The show opened at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre in March 2019 and closed a year later during the COVD-19 lockdown. It reopened in 2021 and then closed again in January of 2022. The national tour was similarly postponed. It was originally planned to open in July of 2020 in Rhode Island, but ended up debuting in North Carolina in December 2021. The run in Hartford is about halfway through the show’s national tour, which is set to end in March 2024 in New Orleans.

The electric spectacle that is “Ain’t Too Proud” is also its biggest foible. Its basic form is the road montage, with personal drama squeezed in between long dance breaks. The plot loses focus in the second act as the cast pops and locks its way through serious issues facing Black artists during the 60s, including racism, crime, addiction and the exploitation of music labels. Nevertheless, a dynamic cast does well in stuffing so many stories in a little over two hours.

Most of the show’s plot is a conflict between group leader Otis Williams, played by Michael Andreaus, and talented maverick David Ruffin, played by Omar Madden. In their way, both characters are the heroes and the villains of the story. Andreaus plays a conflicted Williams. He is unsure and wonders if the sacrifices for the group are worth it. Nevertheless, the show is (quite literally) stolen by Madden, who delivers Ruffin’s signature shenanigans with his impressive vocal technique and his signature cool. 

Despite its whirlwind of characters, places and songs, what remains after the thrilling finale of “Ain’t Too Proud” is the same thing Williams says remains of the Temptations: ”a little bit of love, a well of soul and some of the smoothest moves ever known to five men and a microphone.”

“Ain’t Too Proud” runs from May 30-June 4 at the Bushnell Theater. Tickets for start at $42 and can be purchased at bushnell.org, by calling (860) 987-5900, or by visiting The Bushnell Box Office in person.

lguzman@record-journal.com,Twitter: @lguzm_n 

Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re. To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.


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