Thursday, March 2, 2023

Broadway Tour of "Tina - The Tina Turner Musical" at the Orpheum Theatre

The latest jukebox bio-musical to hit Broadway, and now the Orpheum Theatre, is Tina - The Tina Turner Musical. It premiered on Broadway a few months before the long covid intermission, and received a full dozen Tony nominations in the covid-shortened 2020 season. The show resumed performances in 2021 and ran for another year, and is now hitting the road. With book by acclaimed playwright Katori Hall and a score entirely pulled from pop music (Tina's songs and others), the musical is a mix of songs performed in context (concerts and record studios) and sung by characters speaking to each other. You might get whiplash as we cover Tina's long life and prolific career, with topics like child abuse, domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, sexism, and ageism all touched upon but not dug too deeply into. I admit to not knowing much about Tina Turner other than a few of her hit songs, but came away from the show truly impressed by this music icon who had a second career as a single Black woman over the age of 40, when most of the music industry saw her as a has-been. With stunning performances by the huge cast, Tina Turner fans are sure to love this show, and those who aren't will like develop a new appreciation for her. This one's sticking around for two weeks, so you have a little more time to catch Tina before it closes on March 12 (click here for more info and official ticket site).

The show begins with Tina in her prime about to take the stage. She takes a moment of quiet to center herself, and then we see her life play out before us, until we arrive back at that moment. We watch as little Anna Mae finds joy in singing despite the darkness of her childhood in a small town in Tennessee, follow her to St. Louis where she meets future husband and musical partner Ike, who names her Tina, and continue on her journey to freedom from the abusive relationship and a new career and love. It's a lot to cover in one show (even one that's too long at nearly three hours), but we get the overview of her life if not the details. It's a bit jarring to go from scarily realistic scenes of domestic violence to upbeat musical numbers to introspective performance art pieces, but that's what her life was and this musical puts us right there in it. A nice touch is the appearance of Tina's ancestors in her big moments, as she always remembers who she is and where she came from.

photo by Matthew Murphy
The incredible cast is led by Parris Lewis in a fierce and fearless performance as Tina, both vocally and emotionally. It's worth noting that she's an understudy for the two actors alternating in the role, and still knocked it out of the park in a role that rarely allows her to leave the stage, even to change (the Thursday matinee and evening performances this week were cancelled, and one ensemble member was performing Wednesday night with a mask, so here's hoping the cast stays healthy). Other standouts in the cast include the charming and terrifying Garrett Turner as Ike, and young Ayvah Johnson as little Anna Mae, with a voice almost as big as the grown-up Tina. The costumes are a whirlwind through the decades, from classic '60s to smooth '70s to tacky '80s, all with Tina's iconic short skirts that "let her legs breathe." The set design uses projections to help set the scene and to create some trippy effects (set and costume design by Mark Thompson).

The end of the show turns into a full-blown Tina Turner concert, including a couple of post-curtain call numbers, and it's the biggest thrill of the night. The fabulous 11-piece band (over half of whom are local musicians) is finally revealed in all its glory, and Tina parades up and down a neon staircase, with the entire cast dancing. It becomes a celebration of all that Tina has accomplished despite the hardships along the way.


Join me and my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers for a special event at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres! Get $20 off the ticket price for the March 4 matinee performance of the regional premiere of the super fun and heart-warming musical The Prom, and stick around after the show for a talk-back with some of the cast. Read my review of The Prom here, find more info about the event in the Facebook event here, and purchase discount tickets using code TCTB1 or by clicking on this link (discount valid for any performance through March 12).