Spirituality involves a deep connection to a higher power. It is a human experience and one that intimately touches lives – the way the Queen of rock ‘n’ roll, Tina Turner does for her fans.
Broadway’s newest bio-musical, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is a spiritual expedition, musical evolution, and soul revival, with Adrienne Warren as Tina Turner serving as the Holy Grail. Warren delivers a high energy, emotionally jarring, and bold vocal performance under the direction of Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia) that mirrors the musical icon’s own aura.
Tina expands on Turner’s popular biopic, What’s Love Got To Do With It and explores the musician’s grassroots gospel-singing childhood born Anna-Mae Bullock in Nutbush, TN to her successful life as Tina Turner in London, post husband and musical partner, Ike Turner.
The show begins with Warren as an adult Tina – the timeline a bit distorted – donning a red leather dress, and the iconic spiked blonde wig from the 1980s. Before heading on stage to meet her audience, we’re introduced to Turner’s religious foundation. Her Buddhist faith is most prominent as Tina is seen chanting a Buddhist mantra, while visions of her Cherokee grandmother recite a traditional prayer, and her father, a Christian pastor sermonizes.
The scene quickly goes back in time to introduce us to the young charismatic and soulful Anna-Mae, played triumphantly by 10-year-old actor, Skye Dakota Turner (unrelated to Tina). Skye is a show-stopper. Her voice transcends age and her presence is felt from the moment she appears on-stage. I’d enthusiastically attend any show she is starring in.
Katori Hall’s book, co-written by Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, is extensive but ultimately unfulfilling. Most of the first act is taken up by Tina and Ike’s volatile marriage. The beatings are often too real and too painful to bare. Daniel J. Watts as Ike Turner does what he can with the role he is given but is ultimately seen as the one-note villain of this story.
Tina is frequently asked in the show, “Why do you stay,” and I struggled to understand the same thing. In abusive relationships, the abuser can often be kind and loving and then “triggered” to be mean and hurtful. We never see the sensitive side to Ike that even the 1993 film showed us. We never learn of the genius musician he was.
Act II is reminiscent of a greatest moments highlight reel. We are quickly rushed through Tina’s career in London and her resurrection as a musician under new management, creating her first chart-topping hit “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, and eventually falling in love with her second husband, Erwin Bach.
Anthony Van Laast’s choreography is delectable and left me full and completely satisfied. Laast’s ability to capture Tina’s sultry essence, ageless physicality, and the way she connects with her audience through the use of her strong shoulders and fancy legwork should be praised. Group dance scenes with the Ikettes were electrifying, in particular “Proud Mary” where Warren leads with meticulous dance moves in sync with the groups stellar vocals.
Mark Thompson’s prosy set design doesn’t spark much interest until the show’s concert-like finale. The live band joins Tina onstage separating members with silver risers, illuminated by Bruno Poet’s stunning stadium bulb lighting design. A grand staircase gives Warren a great opportunity to mimic the gracefulness of Tina Turner’s million-dollar insured legs as she descends.
Tina is a musical ultimately about survival and the healing from domestic abuse through faith. Tina: The Tina Turner Musical isn’t simply the best, but the show’s message of empowerment and standing through the test of time with conviction is definitely better than all the rest.