Review of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, starring Adrienne Warren, on Broadway

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    November 7, 2019
    Review by:

    Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is not quite (Simply) The Best, to quote one of the 20-plus Tina Turner hits that are folded into this new book musical that details her life story -- but it's (Pretty) Darn Great! Now in its second crowd-pleasing year at London's Aldwych Theatre, where it premiered in April 2018, this is one of a dozen West End shows transferring to Broadway this season -- and the most obvious to make an early crossing.

    Broadway has long become a marquee home for biographical shows based around pop back catalogues. We have enjoyed such hits as last season's new entry Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations (now at the Imperial), Jersey Boys (still continuing to run at Off-Broadway's New World Stages, after a 12 year run at the August Wilson Theatre which set a record to become the 12th longest-running show in Broadway history) and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (that just closed after a nearly six year run at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre). But there have also been recent misfires like Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (that played at the same address as Tina's new home of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre last year) and The Cher Show, both of which only managed to run for eight months.

    Which category will Tina find itself in? Of course the audience can be found dancing and swaying in the aisles during the now inevitable curtain call encores, but then they always do at this kind of show. By this point they've been forced into a kind of submission. Yet in the case of Tina -- which tells of her own submission but then defiance of her abusive mentor and husband Ike (Daniel J. Watts) -- there's a strong dramatic spine that makes it feel particularly earned and respected, and a necessary release for the audience, too.

    There's also, of course, the alternately bruising and ferocious performance of Adrienne Warren, reprising her 2019 Olivier-nominated turn in the title role. Steadily working up the ranks of Broadway stardom -- she was Tony-nominated for featured actress in a musical for Shuffle Along in 2016 -- she's now arrived as a one-woman fireball of energy and exhilaration. But she's also an actor who expertly negotiates the combination of heartache and drive that propelled Turner to stardom.

    This is a story that has already been told in Turner's own autobiography and a 1993 film "What's Love Got to do With It?" (starring Angela Bassett as Tina, and Laurence Fishburne as Ike), but this stage version, with a book by playwright Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins gives it a fresh immediacy in the propulsive drive of Phyllida Lloyd's production. Lloyd -- a London-based director who turned Mamma Mia! into a global franchise, but has also been a notable stager of Shakespeare and other plays -- keeps the action in fluid movement, reunited with her Mamma Mia! choreographer Anthony van Laast and designer Mark Thompson, supplemented by dazzling projections by Jeff Sugg.

    (Photo by Manuel Harlan)

    "In a performance that is part possession, part workout and part wig, Adrienne Warren rocks the rafters and dissolves your doubts about anyone daring to step into the diva’s high heels."
    Jesse Green for New York Times

    "First, there is Turner’s back catalog—including such hits as “Proud Mary,” “River Deep—Mountain High” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It”—which has significant nostalgia appeal and is mostly well integrated into the story (one mawkish deathbed reprise notwithstanding). And foremost, there is Warren, who delivers a performance of superhuman stamina and skill. She’s more tightly controlled than the real-life Turner; her movement is sharper, her vocals less raspy, and she barely seems to break a sweat. But she makes the part her own."
    Adam Feldman for Time Out New York

    "If you want to relive Tina Turner’s prime, you can’t get much better than Adrienne Warren. The star of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” which opened Thursday night on Broadway, has that smoky-but-booming voice, the Jupiter-sized charisma and those high-energy dance moves. And she can rock a highlighted wig. But there’s more to it than that. As John Lloyd Young and Jessie Mueller proved in their turns as Frankie Valli and Carole King, the best performances in jukebox musicals go beyond technically proficient impressions and shoot for something real. Warren’s galvanizing turn is, in every sense, in the same league as those Tony winners. The 79-year-old Turner has led a hard life, and Warren lets you know it."
    Johnny Oleksinski for New York Post

    "If you aim to embody the indomitable spirit of a beloved subject named not once but twice in the title of her celebratory bio-musical, you better be up to the challenge. Adrienne Warren has what it takes, and then some — the powerhouse voice, the jackhammer legs, the wild dance moves, and above all, the heart — to carry Tina: The Tina Turner Musical across the rough patches of its clunky book and uneven direction. This grit-and-glitter production is neither the best nor the worst (RIP, Donna Summer) of the ongoing wave of musical biographies, but the sensational lead performance that drives pretty much every scene is not to be missed."
    David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter

    "Call Tina a jukebox musical or a bio-musical or anything you want to call it, but above all, this is one fine specimen in the best showbiz tradition of the Great Big Broadway Musical. The music is fantastic, the staging is deluxe, the central figure is a cultural icon and the lead performer, Adrienne Warren, is sensational."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety