Kennedy Center presents ‘Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Ain't Too Proud' at Kennedy Center (Part 1)

It was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 2019, including a win for Best Choreography.

Now, D.C. audiences can experience the national tour of the hit musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations” at the Kennedy Center through Jan. 16.

“This is the first tour of the show, so it’s an exciting time for everyone who couldn’t make it to New York to actually see the show to get a chance to see this great musical for the first time,” actor Harrell Holmes Jr. told WTOP. “We had our preview in Durham, North Carolina, so we’re actually having our official opening here in D.C.”

You may recognize the cast from its recent performance at the 2021 Kennedy Center Honors. Holmes plays Melvin Franklin, who founds the group alongside David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis), Otis Williams (Marcus Paul James), Eddie Kendricks (Jalen Harris) and Paul Williams (James T. Lane) as they sign with Motown Records in 1961.

“You get to learn basically how they started,” Holmes said. “They all came from the South and migrated to Detroit for different reasons. They came together in kind of a divine way. They just all had a great love for music. They were young teenagers at the time, who really didn’t know what impact they would have. They just knew that they loved music.”

Written by Dominique Morisseau, the story charts the group’s evolution from catchy ’60s R&B to profound ’70s social commentary with music reflecting the changing times.

“The show does a great job of navigating and telling that story,” Holmes said. “These were young men, real people dealing with things in the world — from a war to assassination of presidents and prominent people like Dr. [Martin Luther] King, so the music of The Temptations reflected that. The world was changing, so there’s a switching of the guard.”

You’ll also meet the likes of Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson and The Supremes.

“Smokey Robinson produced a lot of those early hits,” Holmes said. “Then we had another talented producer, Norman Whitfield, who wanted to come with that new sound. That’s when ‘Cloud Nine’ was birthed, ‘Ball of Confusion’ and ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone.’ Otis himself was hesitant. He wasn’t sure how the loyal Temptations fans would respond.”

Of course, the show features all of your favorite Temptations tunes.

“All the classics from ‘My Girl’ to ‘Just My Imagination,’ ‘Get Ready,’ ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone,’ ‘Cloud Nine,'” Holmes Jr. said. “If you’re a fan of The Temptations, this is definitely your show. All of the big hits, there are going to be over 30 songs, even the true diehard Temptation fans get ‘You’re My Everything’ and ‘Don’t Look Back,’ all of those great hits.”

The visuals will transport you with Detroit digs and snazzy Motown jackets.

“For two and a half hours you will definitely feel like you’re in that world,” Holmes said. “It’s a true throwback to that time. The design and set team have done an unbelievable job. We have LED screens and big, huge props. It basically looks like a movie on stage. It’s unbelievable. It keeps your attention the entire time. The iconic outfits, the dance moves.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Ain't Too Proud' at Kennedy Center (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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