Review: TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

From "not-so-sequined" to stardom...

By: Apr. 19, 2024
Review: TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
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TINA: The Tina Turner Musical made its Wisconsin debut on stage on the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center stage on April 16th, 2024.  This spirited production features the biography and music of one of rock ‘n roll’s highly regarded icons, Tina Turner.  Featuring Turner’s greatest hits such as “River Deep–Mountain High,” “Proud Mary,” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” this production guided the audience through the trials and triumphs of one of the most well-known and beloved female rock ‘n roll performers of all time.

Immediately upon entering Thrivent Hall, a pop art style, Warhol-esque image of Turner set the stage for an exploration of a career story that spanned several decades.  If you looked closely you could see that the picture was set upon square tiles textured like that of the wall in a recording studio.  These tiles would appear throughout the journey, visually establishing the idea that Tina Turner was the music and the music was her.  This foundational principle was established immediately in the first scene as you saw the iconic image of Turner surrounded by all the spiritual and religious influences in her life.  From there, a sequence so ethereal, yet burdensome, transported the audience to the pews of Southern Baptist church.  This is where the story begins.

This show clearly had a mission of telling the not-so-sequined parts of Turner’s past. From the kitchen of Turner’s childhood home to the recording studios, this show had a prominent theme of bringing to light the abuses and atrocities that take place within and against marginalized communities throughout America’s history.  Beyond this, it is clear that the writers truly believe Turner had a story worth telling. Every moment that Turner has a breakthrough, the tableau of women from her communities past are beside her, pushing her through, willing her forward.

Because of the many decades that were spanned with this show, the cast and creative team had a challenge ahead of them.  It was enjoyable to see how the story went decade to decade through not only set design and costume, but also relationships of different communities of people.

It was very clear that the cast on this tour has an incredible amount of talent.  Moments of this show were a vocal agility masterclass, and energy was through the roof at all times.  They squeezed every ounce of content out of the book, in hopes that the foundational messages would shine through. Young Anna Mae, played by Natalia Nappo, was a highlight of this production. She took the audience by the hand from her first moment in the pews, and made them want to dance from the start.  It is not often that you see that level of talent and poise from such a young performer.

Zurin Villanueva had by far the most challenging task, bringing her own version of an iconic figure to the stage.  Her vocal stamina is unmatched, and her energy was consistent.  While at times I wanted to hear more purity and reservedness in her voice, it was clear that she has a passion for this story, continuing the theme of, “This story needs to be told.” It is incredibly difficult to emulate an iconic voice and persona night after night.

The production ends with a tribute concert style finish, post curtain call.  Anyone who loves Tina Turner would not shy away at a chance to hear the music while the glittery backdrop of “TINA” on display.  

Overall, the energy of this production was quite high, which at times is necessary.  That being said, there are also benefits in finding the subtle moments to allow the audience to breathe. Considering the length of this show, it would have been nice to be able to sit in those subtle moments more often. While stage combat can be a beautiful art form that elicits intense emotion for many, the physicality of this show seemed to be excessive and at times unauthentic.  Seeing evidence of an abusive relationship without being privy to the physical altercations enhances character development and establishes a mood for how an audience experiences a relationship. Viewers should be aware that there is intense language used. This accurately represented the time periods being portrayed, but seemed to catch many audience members off guard.  

TINA playing at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center from April 16-21, 2024.




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