A New York Theatre Guide to... Tina: The Tina Turner Musical!
Here’s all you need to know about Broadway’s latest bio-musical, which puts the legendary Tina Turner back in the spotlight where she belongs…
Ever since Tina: The Tina Turner Musical took to the stage for its world premiere in London in March 2018, Broadway fans have enviously looked on, wondering when the new tuner might cross the pond and bring the courageous story of one Tina Turner (and her plethora of hits) to New York audiences. Well, the wait is over. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, the woman at the helm of the global phenomenon that is Mamma Mia!, and featuring a book by the Olivier Award-winning mastermind behind The Mountaintop, Katori Hall, Tina began previews at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway on October 12, 2019, ahead of an official opening on November 7.
What’s it all about?
Tina follows the journey of Anna Mae Bullock from humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, in the 1940s to the creation of a global megastar by the name of Tina Turner, performing in front of 180,000 screaming fans at a concert in Brazil in 1988. Along the rocky road, we experience her broken childhood home, the fraught relationship with her mother, Zelma, being discovered in St. Louis by Ike Turner and the subsequent creation of 'The Ike & Tina Turner Revue.' The musical does not shy away from the well-documented domestic abuse suffered at the hands of Ike and rejoices in Tina’s emancipation by the end of Act I. The second half concentrates on her struggle to establish herself as a solo artist, without a penny to her name (which was incidentally the only thing she insisted on keeping when she settled out of court with Ike). She meets her dream man, Erwin Bach, in Europe and, in the face of racism and ageism, and with the help of a young Australian manager/producer by the name of Roger Davies, Tina defies the odds to create a new sound that sets the world alight.
Who’s starring in it?
Reprising her Olivier-nominated and all-round jaw-dropping performance from the London world premiere in the titular role is Adrienne Warren. This is truly a career-defining turn by the young stage favorite, who previously made her Broadway debut in 2012 in Bring It On The Musical and earned her first Tony Award nomination in 2016 for Shuffle Along. She is supported by an all-dancing and all-singing ensemble cast with a few standout acting performances from the likes of Daniel J. Watts as Ike Turner and Dawnn Lewis as Tina’s mother, Zelma.
What’s special about this production?
Unlike some previous Broadway jukebox bio-musicals (which shall remain nameless), Tina Turner’s biography certainly has enough meat on its bones to warrant a retelling on the Great White Way. The dramatic tension, especially in the first half of Tina, is palpable and, even if you are already fully aware of the events of her life, authentically shocking. Yes, these events have been well-documented, recently in Tina’s 2018 autobiography ‘My Love Story’ as well as the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” but this simply doesn’t compare to the raw emotion evoked by seeing them play out live on stage. And the second half of the bio-musical picks up where the Angela Bassett-led film left off, shedding more light on life after Ike.
And let’s make no mistake about it, this is the Adrienne Warren show. I’m struggling to think of a more demanding stage role than Tina Turner and, furthermore, I’m struggling to think of anyone in recent memory who has excelled and triumphed in such a role as much as Adrienne. With no offence intended towards the three talented ladies who embodied Cher, the three Donna Summers, and Jessie Mueller’s portrayal of Carole King, but the endurance and charisma required to pull off this role call for a performer who can take it into overdrive... and beyond! We smell Tonys…
With the inevitable jukebox musical encore finale worth the price of admission alone, writer Katori Hall has beautifully woven Tina’s wealth of hits into the story in a perfect balance of presentation and narrative progression. As bio-musicals go, folks, this is (Simply) The Best that’s on offer!
Who would we recommend it to?
Due to the graphic depiction of domestic violence, along with some colorful language, we recommend Tina for all those aged 16 and above. Even if you aren’t an ardent fan of the Queen of Rock n Roll, Tina Turner’s story makes for a compelling trip to the theatre and may be the perfect opportunity to introduce a friend or a partner to the world of Broadway. It could also be a great motivator and inspiration for young women, leaving the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre empowered by the living legend’s triumph over adversities and proclaiming: We Don’t Need Another Hero… we’ve got Tina!
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical Tickets are available now.
(Photos by Manuel Harlan)