The Tony-award winning musical “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” brings the life of the “Queen of Rock N’ Roll” to the stage with all the glamor and tribulations associated with the singer’s titular name. After a run at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theater opening on November 7, 2019 and closing on October 8, 2021 with a pause in 2020, the show has found a new life on its first national tour rolling across North America. “Tina” plays the Broward Center for the Performing Arts now until January 29 with tickets available here.
With a litany of portrayals of Tina Turner ranging from Angela Bassett’s powerful spin in the film “What’s Love Got to Do With It” to the 2021 documentary on the maligned singer, Naomi Rogers evokes the spirit of the former Anna Mae Bullock with a massive voice paralleled to the vocalist at the height of her ability. Rogers’ has both the technical chops to balance the role with the grittier edges that make Turner’s classic songs soar. As the story surrounds the artist, there are barely moments when she is off-stage, with costume changes performed right in front of the audience at points. Due to the grueling nature of the role, Rogers alternates with actress Zurin Villanueva every night during the run of the show.
Tina Turner’s songs weave the narrative of the show throughout the powerhouse vocalist’s life. Yes, the big songs like “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and “River Deep-Mountain High” are given their massive sequences on stage, many tracks are not sung by Tina herself. While performance segments such as “Proud Mary” are interspersed with intense melodrama and “Disco Inferno” setting up her Vegas years, the moments where songs become a form of dialogue are delivered to mixed results. The Act 2 intro of “Private Dancer” pitched as a metaphor for Turner’s own career exploitation is given an emotional weight, while the transition of speaking to singing in “Don’t Turn Around” has some of the contrivance that traps jukebox musicals to the point of cliché. The cast album itself forsaking including dialogue helps conceal the show’s brilliant moments where interspersed storytelling through song is given a greater intensity, making the show its own true live experience.
Moving through Turner’s life, Rogers steps onto the stage chanting a Buddhist mantra that has helped Turner stay grounded throughout life. As she nervously struts on stage dressed in the iconic red mini-dress, fishnets and giant blonde hair, we see the performer move backwards in time back into her upbringing in Nutbush, Tennessee. Young Anna Mae is played by Avah Jackson, the boisterous young talent with a large voice begging to break free from an abusive household. Her parents, Zelma and Richard Bullock are portrayed by Roz White and Carlton Terence Taylor respectively. While Taylor plays the pastor quick to malice that exits Young Anna Mae’s life as quickly as he appears on stage, White takes the complicated matriarch coming in and out of Tina’s life with an extreme poise in the matronly role.
As Anna Mae transitions into adulthood, a chance encounter in St. Louis would introduce her to the Kings of Rhythm and subsequently, future husband Ike Turner who forces her to take his namesake. Performed by Garrett Turner (no relation), Garrett plays the drug-addled rock-n-roll musician with a deep gravitas that is both fueled by familial trauma and vicious insecurities.
While director Phyllida Lloyd has been notable for her ability to bring pure spectacle to jukebox musicals with her work on the film adaptation of “Mamma Mia,” what truly breaks the show of some of the trappings of bio-musicals is the book contribution of Katori Brown. Brown, creator and executive producer of “P-Valley” taps into the deep-seeded centuries of generational trauma that plagues Turner’s life story. Surviving constant abuse from ex-husband Ike Turner paralleled fruitlessly stopping her mother’s own beatings. References to slavery during Tina’s Vegas residency with Ike Turner retaining the rights to many of her biggest songs and even a choir of the ghosts of Tina’s childhood singing during “I Don’t Wanna Fight No More.” Truly, what seemed like a misreading of the tone of the show was the audience cheering as Tina took the advice of her mother and struck back at Ike, perpetuating the cycle of violence that has haunted the singer’s life and becoming an absentee mother for many years of her children’s life.
Set to a mix of backdrops combining projections of hazy color fields to glittery sequin 70s TV show sets, Mark Thompson captures the distinct essence of the eras of Tina’s life. With dazzling dance costumes and period-specific patterns, a true standout of the show is the wigs by Campbell Young Associates. With Tina barely off stage for a second, wigs are swapped on the fly during songs, from the unkempt curls, to the big dramatic reveal of the blonde bombshell hair teased to high heaven.
“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” is (simply) the best you can get for a bio jukebox musical. While the show treads familiar territory, “Tina” is undeniably a spectacle to be seen live. With absolute powerhouse vocal performances, all the glamor of beaded fringe and teased hair, loaded with a stirring narrative about the endurance of the human spirit, “Tina” will get you on your feet and have you leave the theater grinning from ear to ear. “Tina” plays the Broward Center for the Performing Arts now until January 29 with tickets available here.