Broadway Review: TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL)

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by Cris Franco on April 14, 2022

in Theater-New York

TINA IS A HEAD-TURNER

Two elements are vital to creating a hit bio-musical: great songs and a powerful life story. Tina, The Tina Turner Musical delivers both. Whereas some biographies required that book writers “punch-up” the drama, the true life story of the woman born Anna-Mae Bullock needs no exaggeration as it recounts how a force of nature, born in the most challenging of circumstances, fulfills its destined stardom.  From a headstrong child, Anna-Mae (played with candor and innocence by Ronni Colette) to the multi-platinum, twelve-time Grammy-winning superstar, Tina Turner (impeccably channeled by Nkeki Obi-Melekwe), the show weaves a tale of rejection, abuse, redemption, love and worldwide success.

Twenty-four musical numbers (including “Proud Mary,” “Private Dancer,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “ We Don’t Need Another Hero,” and “Simply the Best”) take us from a Nutbush, Tennessee church choir to her record-setting, sold-out, mega-concert at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But, as we’ll see, it wasn’t an easy journey.

At a tender age, Anna-Mae is chastised by her mother (the powerful NaTasha Yvette Williams) for always bringing attention to herself while singing in church. Her family fractures and she is abandoned by both her parents and left to be raised by her grandmother (the sympathetic Myra Lucretia Taylor). Her love of music grows and as a young adult she is newly reunited with her mother. At a perchance meeting she is discovered by Ike Turner (deftly played by Nick Rashad Burroughs) and after a whirlwind tour, romance and marriage, she emerges as Tina Turner.

As the Ike and Tina Turner Review make a name for themselves, the abusive and philandering Ike spirals into drug abuse. By the time producer Phil Spector (Stephen Booth) is brought on board, concentrating on Tina and leaving Ike in the background, the physical abuse she has endured becomes unbearable. Tina escapes, with little more than her life. Intermission.

Now left on her own, with two children to raise, Tina Turner discovers inner-peace through Buddhism and fights to make it as a solo performer. Tired of playing the club circuit, she longs for success. Against all odds, as a middle-aged Black woman, in a bigoted misogynistic corporate world of music executives, Tina, with the help of Australian Producer Rodger Davies (the charming Charlie Franklin), would find a future as a chart-topping recording artist.  Just as Tina Turner evolved into an artist, so does her musical which skillfully blends her life with her music and vice-versa. It’s a hard road, but we experience how those obstacles that tried to break Tina are also what forged her into the dynamic solo artist she is today. Nkeki Obi-Melekwe is a revelation as adult Tina and delivers a fever-pitched performance that culminates in a mini-concert where her uncanny vocal and physical similarities to Tina leave you wondering if you haven’t just been transported to her sold out concert in Rio de Janeiro. Tina is a heartbreaking, life-affirming, raucous, musical meditation on the resilience of the human spirit. In these seemingly hopeless times, the world needs to see Tina. Perhaps that’s why it has mounted successful productions in the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

photos by Manuel Harlan

TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (205 West 46th Street)
Tues and Thurs at 7; Wed, Fri and Sat at 8; Wed and Sat at 2; Sun at 3
for tickets, visit Ticketmaster (there is also a digital lottery)

{ 4 comments }

John Mcfaul April 17, 2022 at 9:37 am

Another comprehensive review by Cris Franco. Got my tickets! Nutbush here I come!

Carlos April 17, 2022 at 6:58 pm

Sounds amazing. This review makes me want to run out and see the show. Glad to hear that TINA does justice to Tina Turner’s incredible life story.

Cris Beato April 24, 2022 at 5:51 pm

Cris, spectabulous review and I know not how or when, but I HAVE to see that show! Love and kisses!

Charley April 24, 2022 at 10:40 pm

TINA is such an unconventional juke box bio-musical. Act 1 ends not with an upbeat song or a big chorus number — but with Tina bloody and bruised escaping from Ike’s abuse. Panting, she begs for one night’s free lodging at a local motel because Ike’s never paid her. The hotel clerk silently hands her a room key, she says thank-you with her eyes — and the curtain drops.

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