In the past few seasons there have been a slew of biographical shows on Broadway – Summer, The Cher Show, and Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations. Tina – the Tina Turner Musical is more gratifying and well-defined than those previous entries. It is a dazzling jukebox production with a scintillating and career-defining performance by Adrienne Warren in the title role.
Like musicals of this genre, the book begins when the featured artist is very young and weaves its way through adulthood and a demarcating and triumphant moment in the person(s) life. What separates Tina is the story, written by Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, for the musical is intelligible and less episodic. There is a good rhythm and fluidity to the production. Sure, there are gaps and unexplained leaps, but those are the pitfalls when attempting to cram decades of someone’s career into a 2 ½+ show.
In Tina, the focus centers, at first, on her personal and professional relationship with Ike Turner, played with a devilish mixture of zeal, passion, carnal desires and inner rage by Daniel J. Watts. Their 16-year pairing ultimately fails from too much spousal abuse—both physical and psychological. On her own, Tina Turner seeks to rebuild her career as she arises, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of her once glamorous and successful vocal career to become, in mid-life, a bona fide superstar.
The musical numbers span her 60’s hits like “River Deep—Mountain High” and “Proud Mary” as well her multi-platinum selling songs from the 1980’s that include “Private Dancer,” “We Don’t Need a Hero,” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” The earlier songs are performed with a controlled frenzy, led by the incomparable Adrienne Warren, who gyrates and dances up a storm, along with the Ikettes, to the polished and stylized choreography devised by Anthony Van Laast.
While the supporting cast is superb, especially the young actress Skye Turner who possesses a powerhouse set of vocal chords, there would be no Tina without Adrienne Warren. I sat there marveling at the power of her voice, her boundless energy and command of the stage. The final production number, “(Simply) The Best” encapsulates the best of Ms. Warren’s performance and the overall vitality of the musical.
Director Phyllida Lloyd keeps the pacing brisk, not allowing the show to drag or lose its élan. Act I is more tension-filled and animated since Ms. Lloyd has the character of Ike, cruel and unapologetic, to play off the trusting, inexperienced Tina. In Act II, the director maneuvers the production through a tonal change that is less combative and more reflective and celebratory.
The creative team significantly shapes the look and feel of the show. They include Lighting Designer Bruno Poet, Sound Designer Nevin Steinberg, the psychedelic and hip projections by Jeff Sugg, and the sometimes stunning set pieces and period specific costumes by Mark Thompson. The fight sequences under the direction of Sordelet, Inc. are realistic and can be heart-pounding. Musical Supervisor Nicholas Skilbeck has the off-stage and on-stage band in perfect sync during the pulsating rhythm and blues numbers as well as the power ballads in the latter part of the show.
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, a jubilant, entertaining musical with a not-to-be-missed performance by the actress Adrienne Warren.