Motown Comes to Berkeley

There aren’t any subtleties about the trials and journey of young gifted African American performers who came up from the southern states to make it big in Motown! This season The Berkeley Repertory Theatre is bringing one of the most harrowing and inspiring tales of Motown to the stage. They’ve tapped the genius Tony Award-Winning, Des McAnuff to direct Ain’t Too Proud — The Temptations a play based on the book by Dominique Morisseau.

The preview of the play launched on the evening of August 31st. Among the throngs of every demographic of theatre goers one could only imagine, sat the gentleman who fiercely fought through the hardships of the civil rights era and dared to dream big, Otis Williams. Seated just a few chairs down from him was the man he grew to trust spanning over five decades, Manager, Shelly Berger.

Ain’t Too Proud — The Temptations

Derrick Baskin plays the ambitious and gentle, Otis Williams. Baskin is a solid cornerstone as he carries the entire play from start to finish. The serious and focused demeanor of Jahi Kearse who plays Berry Gordy is far too much of a gentleman in comparison to the languid and nonchalant disguise that Gordy used to hide the money hungry mongrel that was his true essence. What about Candice Marie Woods who plays Diana Ross? All I’ve got to say is, where have you been hiding? What a talented young lady! She embodies Diana Ross like no other actress in any other previous role of the Queen of Motown. Even in her supporting and brief role is reason enough to make the trek to see this Broadway quality production. But the real show stopper? Ephraim Sykes. He took David Ruffin to a whole new level. The entire cast deserves a standing ovation. And let’s hear it for the musicians and conductor that kept the play moving!

Over all the play is fantastic! Its a three hour treat of impactful story-telling sandwiched between non-stop singing and dancing. Won’t be one bit surprised if this production makes it to Broadway. Hope to see you at Berkeley Rep!