Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 18, 2009

The Temptations/James Naughton

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
by Shera Cohen

Separated by 24 hours, the Colonial Theatre played host to two extremely diverse evenings of music. It's not at all hard to believe that the rockin' doo-wop sing-alongs of the 50s/60s would be equally appreciated by an audience as the smooth, jazzy, cabaret songs of numerous eras. Yet, this was the case for The Temptations concert on a Sunday night followed by James Naughton on Monday.

Perhaps one difference between the two was the familiarity. For anyone over age 50 (which seemed to account most in the full house), The Temptations evoked memories including the lyrics of nearly all of their big hits. Think "How Sweet It Is," "Just My Imagination," and "My Girl." The latter is dubbed The Temptations National Anthem. The five-member group, backed by a sometimes too loud band, included those who started 48-years ago. But age didn't deter the old-timers onstage, or those in the audience from moving, grooving, clapping, and swaying. Indeed, the quintet's choreography was that of the guys' groups of the 50s. Perhaps it looks comical today, but not then, and the Colonial audience ate it up.

Selections from The Temptations platinum records and 57 CDs included showstoppers "Get Ready" and "Since I Lost My Baby." While two singers were obviously newcomers, the guys age 70+ held their own with still fine voices, including one whose bass went down to the proverbial floor.

The stage belonged to James Naughton on Monday. His is a name well-known in the Berkshires as an actor whose primary venue is Williamstown Theatre. His is also face that most have seen on TV or in the movies; i.e. Ally McBeal's dad, Meryll Streep's husband in "The Devil Wears Prada." Naughton works steady, particularly on Broadway, where he is a Tony Award winner. He calls himself an actor who happens to sing. And, he sings very well.

Naughton mixed a repertoire of oldies ("Star Dust" - yes, real oldies), a Duke Ellington medley, and rarely heard ditties full of odd lyrics sung at breakneck speed. The latter proved Naughton's agility and humor. While the Colonial is a large, elegant theatre, a cabaret setting was the format. In keeping with that, Naughton told many backstage anecdotes, which were equally as entertaining as the music.