The greatest pleasure offered in “Tina--The Tina Turner Musical” is the opportunity to enjoy the fabulous performance of Adrienne Warren as Tina. Wow, can she sing! She also does a terrific acting job in the role, and that combination enables her to dominate the musical in a manner that honors the real Tina Turner.
After earning ovation after ovation with her numbers in the show, Warren breaks the fourth wall completely for the curtain call. She connects directly with the audience and rouses the crowd with numbers in which the cast and ensemble participate. It’s a blow-the-roof-off finale that leaves one even more impressed with Warren’s talent, charisma and magnetism.
The term juke box musical has become something of a pejorative. But although Turner’s songs are sandwiched into the show, they at least mostly are made to fit the narrative, and the musical becomes more than just a song collection. There is enough of a bio in the book by Katori Hall, with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, to touch essential bases.
We get Tina’s tough childhood, including an abusive father (David Jennings) and a mother (Dawnn Lewis) who doesn’t really want her. There is of course the ugly, violent abuse by Ike, played convincingly by Daniel J. Watts. The show encompasses Tina’s rise to fame, the problem adult years and a comeback, and it also delves into various personal and professional relationships. There’s only so much depth a musical like this can reach, but there is certainly enough to give one a sense of Tina’s life.
The production itself has razzle-dazzle, including energetic, body-shaking dancing (choreography by Anthony Van Laast), effective projection (design by Jeff Sugg), flashy lighting (design by Bruno Poet), powerful sound (design (by Nevin Steinberg), glittering costumes (set and costume design by Mark Thompson), and all-important wig, hair and makeup (design by Campbell Young Associates). The contingent of musicians are woven into action (music supervision, arrangements and additional music and conducting by Nicholas Skilbeck), and then positioned on stage as a unit in the encore blast. Phyllida Lloyd’s direction smoothly entwines the drama in Tina’s life with Warren’s singing.
There’s a special treat—the performance by Skye Dakota Turner (no relation) as young Anna-Mae (later named Tina Turner by Ike), who can also sing powerfully, which she further proves in her lively audience-pleasing duet with Warren in the curtain call finale.
The large cast also includes Tina’s grandmother (Myra Lucretia Taylor), record honcho Phil Spector (Steven Booth), and of course, the thrilling Ikettes (Holl’ Conway, Kayla Davion, Destinee Rea and Mars Rucker). Among the songs that Warren sings are “Better Be Good to Me,” “River Deep—Mountain High,” “I Don’t Wanna Fight No More,” “Private Dancer” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
The show’s many attributes are packed tightly into this spectacle geared for those primarily seeking an entertaining Broadway production. And Warren is giving what surely deserves to be an award-contending performance. At the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th Street. Phone: 877-250-2929. Reviewed November 15, 2019.