After a more than exceptional run on Broadway and receiving 12 Tony nominations, “AIN’T TOO PROUD – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS” returns to Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre December 13, 2022 through January 1, 2023. Ain’t Too Proud, which the New York Times called “Pretty Close To Perfection” was written by Kennedy Prize-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau, directed by two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff, and features the Tony Award winning choreography of Sergio Trujillo. Hailed as the story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and even betrayal, the production includes such familiar and award winning songs as “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” “Get Ready,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” The incredibly talented cast of singers and actors includes Jalen Harris, Harrell Holmes Jr., James T. Lane, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Gregory Carl Banks Jr., and others. Tickets are on sale now.
Sergio Trujillo was in Los Angeles to check in with the Ain’t Too Proud company and agreed to an interview with LA Dance Chronicle. We met on Zoom shortly after he had visited the newly opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures to talk about his amazing career as a dancer, choreographer and director. Trujillo currently lives in New York City with his husband with actor Jack Noseworthy and their young son Lucas. The couple were married in 2011.
Trujillo was born in Colombia and raised in Toronto, Canada. It was not until his last year in high school that he took his first dance classes. Trujillo went on to study science at the University of Toronto and later attended chiropractic school. It was then that he decided that he wanted to pursue a more creative path in dance and took a leave from school. He first traveled to New York and then Los Angeles where he auditioned for his first Broadway show.
JS: What drew you toward musical theater.
ST: It is something that I have always loved when I first got introduced to dance. But it wasn’t until I saw my first Broadway show that I decided that that was something that I wanted to do. It incorporated all the forms; I can dance, I can sing and I can act. I did not want to pursue concert dance, but it was something that combined all those art forms was incredibly interesting to me. That was how I ended up in New York and in musical theater.
Trujillo made his Broadway debut in 1999 performing in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, and later appeared on Broadway in Guys and Dolls ( Choreography by Michael Kidd), Victor/Victoria (Choreography by Bob Marshall), Kiss of the Spider Woman (Choreography by Vincent Paterson), and Fosse (Choreography by Ann Reinking and Chet Walker).
There is a quote on Trujillo’s website that (“I knew that FOSSE would be my last show as a dancer when I began feeling limited by somebody else’s work. I didn’t get to express myself, and I needed to do something about it”), which led me to my next question: how did he [you] transition from dancer to choreographer?
ST: I always knew when I started out that there was a part of me that really wanted to be creative, more so than just interpreting someone else’s work and ideas. When I first started out dancing I always choreographed my movement. There was a part of me that always knew that I was going to choreograph.
He said that in high school he choreographed the Dream Ballet in Oklahoma without ever having seen the movie. It was all about expression. During his early years in New York, however, Trujillo’s goals were to dance on Broadway, television, film and music videos – goals which he met.
ST: I knew when I did my last Broadway show, Fosse, that that was going to be my last dance show and that I was going to choreograph. I made a very deliberate and specific choice to move on.
Trujillo said that while he was still performing in Fosse that he was offered a job choreographing West Side Story at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. It was that show that opened up a whole set of opportunities for him. He next choreographed the musical adaptation of Francis Ford Coppola’s film Peggy Sue Got Married in New York’s West End before it moved to Broadway.
Trujillo made his choreographic debut in 2005 with Broadway’s All Shook Up. His list of choreographic achievements is long and include Jersey Boys, Next to Normal, The Addams Family, Memphis, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, A Bronx Tale, Guys and Dolls, and of course Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations for which he received the Tony Award for Choreography.
Trujillo’s directing credits include the digital concert ¡Viva Broadway! Hear Our Voices, Cirque Du Soleil’s Paramour, for American Repertory Theater Arrabal (Elliot Norton Award for Best Direction), the North American tour of Flashdance the Musical, and the Broadway concert of Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine. In 2021, Trujillo was asked to choreograph the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC. For the Los Angeles Opera he has choreographed The Marriage of Figaro, and for the New York City Opera, Salome.
In addition to his Tony Award for Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, Trujillo has won the Olivier Award in 2015 for Best Theatre Choreographer for Memphis. He was previously nominated for several awards including a Tony Award for On Your Feet!, multiple Drama Desk Awards for Hands on a Hardbody, Leap of Faith, Memphis, and Jersey Boys, a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Saved, and won an Ovation Award for Empire.
Trujillo’s long and successful career has also led him to be named one of the Too 100 Colombians in the world by President Juan Manuel Santos and voted as one of the top Creative Colombian Artists in the world by Forbes Magazine.
JS: Of all the many awards that you have received, which do you consider the most meaningful?
ST: (without pause) The Tony Award!
JS: How about the recognition from your birth country Colombia?
ST: I’ve always stayed incredibly connected to my culture, heritage and to the place where I was born. I want to be able to use my example as an inspiration to artists of all genres that it is possible to achieve great things if you are incredibly resilient, tenacious, dedicated and passionate. Of course, success is relative to how we define it and you don’t have to win an award to be recognized, but to be in the company of all those Colombians at that moment filled me with pride.
Just prior to the pandemic, Trujillo was invited by the Colombian government to visit his birth city, Cali where they had just opened a new dance center. He explained that the government had turned an old beer factory into an amazing center for all dance forms and that it included several beautiful studios. He was impressed that they had created this center to train new and talented dance artists.
Regarding my inquiry about his research for Ain’t Too Proud, Trujillo referred to the fact that he had choreographed Jersey Boys in 2004 and utilizing the research he did for that genre and musical era. This included a trip to Los Angeles and renting numerous videos with original performances by music groups such as The Four Tops.
ST: When it came time for me to choreograph this show (Ain’t Too Proud) I had already done all this research for a few shows set in that era, that I was able to trust that I remembered that I knew the period and created my own version of what that would be.
Trujillo said that he had a great time working on this show and considers the music from that era timeless. He added that one cannot help but dance to it.
When asked what he thought would entice audiences to go to the Ahmanson Theatre to see Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, Trujillo again referred to the catalog of music that represents a very specific soundtrack to the history of America.
ST: It is also a group of men who changed music history. It is a biographical musical that is incredibly uplifting, incredibly emotional, and so entertaining. We are very proud of this production.
What I do want is for people to return to the theater. I was at one of our previews for this show and just to hear the joy, the applause – this sort of communal thing that happens in live theater that no other form can bring to people.
Trujillo related a story that during the intermission of this same preview showing of Ain’t Too Proud, a man behind him reached over to his friend and uttered “Oh my God! This is the best thing that I’ve ever seen!”
ST: What I read through all of that is that it was more about how incredibly overjoyed he was to be in the theater, to listen to the music and to be inspired by these stories. It made me so overjoyed that we can do that for audiences. I hope that people will return and come to see us as this is a really moving and exciting piece of theater.
Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptation is currently running at the Ahmanson Theatre through January 1, 2023. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Ahmanson Theatre website and click on Tickets & Events.
For more information about Sergio Trujillo, please visit his website.
Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.