Temptations musical brings ‘My Girl’ love songs to Kennedy Center just in time for Valentine’s Day

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Ain't Too Proud' at the Kennedy Center (Part 1)
The cast of "Ain't Too Proud." (Matthew Murphy)

Valentine’s Day is just two days away and few music groups had more romantic tunes than The Temptations.

Take your date to the acclaimed musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life & Times of The Temptations” at the Kennedy Center in D.C. from Tuesday, Feb. 13 through Sunday, Feb. 18.

“If you want to bring your girl or your guy, bring ’em on down because this is an amazing, amazing show and you will not be disappointed,” Actor E. Clayton Cornelius told WTOP.  “You’re gonna laugh, you’re gonna cry, you’re gonna go down memory lane if you came up through those times. … It’s just a great show packed with music and dance and a great story actually,” written by playwright Dominique Morisseau.

Cornelius plays Paul Williams, who joins Otis Williams (Michael Andreaus), David Ruffin (Elijah Ahmad Lewis), Eddie Kendricks (Jalen Harris) and Melvin Franklin (Harrell Holmes Jr.) to form the iconic R&B group The Temptations, who were signed by Motown Records in 1961. Along the way, they meet Motown founder Berry Gordy, singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson and superstar colleagues like Diana Ross and The Supremes.

“This story basically starts from the point of view of Otis Williams, who is the last surviving Temptation,” Cornelius said. “Otis about 82 now and he looks fantastic. It’s told from how he started as a boy, how he started the group and picked up all the five classic Temptations. … Their journey of going through the Civil Rights Movement, coming up through that time as a teenager to become men and rising to stardom and having to deal with all of that.”

Of course, it’s a jukebox musical so you will hear all of your favorite Temptations hits, including “Get Ready,” “Cloud Nine,” “Just My Imagination,” “Ball of Confusion” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”

“This is the soundtrack of generations. The Temptations are very classic, No. 1 hits all over the place, ‘My Girl,’ ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone,’ ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,'” Cornelius said. “Just so many more songs than you probably even thought you knew about The Temptations. You’ll come see the show and go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know they sang that!’ …. You can be at the gas station or the grocery store and you’ll hear all of these hits all of the time.”

Expect to see the vintage, sparkling suits and synchronized, snapping dance moves all set to Sergio Trujillo’s Tony Award-winning choreography, one of 12 total nominations from the 2019 Broadway production.

“The Temptations always had classic moves, but they weren’t pirouetting and doing some of the dance moves that we do now on stage, so the choreography is exactly what you see from them in the old tapes but heightened more,” Cornelius said. “You have to be really close in order to harmonize as well as we do and to dance and sing and act on stage for 2 1/2 hours together in sync, so we really do have a really great bond and foundation.”

It’s a full-circle homecoming for “Ain’t Too Proud” as the show had its pre-Broadway run at the Kennedy Center in 2018, just the second city to stage it after its initial premiere at Berkeley Rep in Berkeley, California.

“D.C. was the first city after Berkeley,” Cornelius said. “The first professional touring run of the show pre-Broadway was D.C. I was part of that cast as [later Temptations member] Richard Street, so if anybody saw the show before, I was in the white suit, I sang ‘Gloria’ and I sang eight different characters in the show, then I graduated to becoming Paul Williams on the tour for the second year and I closed the Broadway show in 2021.”

Find more information here.

Listen to our full conversation here.

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

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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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