“This is a show that is about today. It’s about what’s going on in our country now,” declares director Des McAnuff about his Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” McAnuff recently received his sixth Tony nomination for his directorial efforts and chatted with Gold Derby about the creative process behind the hit musical. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
McAnuff was initially hesitant to take on another biographical musical because he didn’t want it to compete and be compared with his Best Musical Tony winner “Jersey Boys.” But when Otis Williams himself asked the director to take up the reigns, the opportunity was “impossible to resist.” Over the course of the initial conversation with Williams, McAnuff says that “it was clear this was very important to him… he was willing to open a vein in order to tell this story.”
The story of The Temptations is one filled with triumph and tragedy. Williams is the last surviving original member of the band, and there have been a total of 24 “Temps” over the years. For the director, it became clear that the show needed to treat The Temptations as “an institution.” “Exits and entrances” says McAnuff, “became our stock and trade.”
In order to craft a blueprint for the ways various band members would float in and out of the action, McAnuff worked closely with book writer Dominique Morisseau. An outline was created for the piece before she ever wrote a word so that the musical had a built in “dramatic architecture.” He adds, “Together, we created a roadway for this show.”
A key piece of that architecture was saving Williams’ (played by Tony nominee Derrick Baskin) big moment until the end of the show. “Derrick may well be the best singer in the company,” McAnuff admits, “but we don’t let him sing solo very much.” His big solo comes at the end, after Williams loses all his original band-mates. As the man who sacrificed everything bursts into an emotional gospel number, the audience “understands what he has given up for that group.” With striking themes of sacrifice and success, “Ain’t Too Proud” tells a story that resonates loudly with today’s world.
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