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Review: TINA - THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL Bedazzles The Belk Theater

Review: TINA - THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL Bedazzles The Belk Theater

This new Broadway bio-musical is simply the best!

If I could use a catch phrase to describe the phenom I witnessed on the stage of the Belk Theater, in Charlotte, NC, I would say...Simply The Best. Written by Tony nominee and Pulitzer prize winner Katori Hall, Tina (The Tina Turner Musical) is a "rags to riches" bio-musical depicting the triumphs and tribulations of Annie Mae Bullock, a country girl from Nutbush, Tennessee, who rose from poverty to world acclaim to become who we know as the legendary and iconic Tina Turner. I can't think of any other way for me to spend the final days of this year other than attending and enjoying this electrifying musical on tour that made its Broadway debut at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, on November 7, 2019.

Immediately at front curtain, my mind was catapulted back to when I was a little girl performing, with my towel on my head (emulating Tina's hair) and my brush in my hand, serving as a microphone, as I reacted to seeing the Ike and Tina Turner Revue on the Ed Sullivan show (Yes, I'm that old) singing Proud Mary. "You know, every now and then I think you might like to hear something from us Nice and Easy... But there's just one thing You see we never ever do nothing Nice, easy... We always do it nice and rough...!" After the beginning dialogue, I burst into a rigorous dance culminating into the chorus "And we're rolling, rolling, rolling on the river!" I think every little girl in my neighborhood has been Tina Turner at some point. However, Naomi Rodgers and Zurin Villanueva can actually say that they portray Tina Turner as actors leading a 40-city tour that began in Providence, Rhode Island, on September 11.

Bio-musicals of legendary icons such as Tina Turner, who is as unique and fabulous as they come, are oftentimes difficult to review because the superstars have raised the bar so high with their enormous talents and unique qualities. Based on my own perception, there is an image in my head that is hard to filter out because an original such as Mrs. Tina Turner cannot be duplicated...that raspy voice...those signature legs, she is in a league of her own. Therefore, anyone who tries to step in her shoes has to go beyond the call of duty to deliver a nearly flawless portrayal. These ladies did a good job in their own vernacular. Yet, Tina Turner is still the reigning queen of Rock Of Roll in my mind. She is "one of a kind" and so hard to emulate or imitate because I, as many others do, hold her on such a high pedestal.

The musical begins with a young Annie Mae (Ayvah Johnson) energetically showcasing her talents in church. Singing loud and proud with gyrating moves, her mother, Zelma (Roz White) tries to calm her down without success. It depicts Anna Mae's troublesome home life that includes a volatile father (Clarence Terrence Taylor) and a verbally abusive mother, who openly shows favoritism between Anna Mae and her sister, Alline (Lillian Charles). After a domestic violence incidence, Zelma leaves Richard, taking Alline and leaving Anna. Anna Mae was sent to live with her grandmother, Gran Georgeanna (Ann Nesby) who tries to provide a structured family life for Anna Mae until she discovers that she has been promiscuous. So, Gran Georgeanna sent Anna Mae to St. Louis to live with her mother. Unknowingly, this move led Anna Mae into the arms of her destiny...because there she met Ike Turner (Garnett Turner). As we know from previous projects on the life of Tina Turner, Ike is credited in discovering her, changing her name to Tina Turner, and giving her the platform to showcase her unique singing voice.

The bio-musical, as other accounts of their relationship did as well, depicted the domestic violence afflicted on Tina, which, at one point, even led her to a suicide attempt. Even though the bio-musical tried to humanize Ike by focusing of the fact that he too was abused and molested as a child, his father was murdered, and that Ike faced and seen racial discrimination in Mississippi, it still villainized him as a stone-cold abuser who physically and sexually abused women. Although he suffered trauma, it doesn't excuse the harm and violence he inflicted on Tina Turner, even though statistics show that children who witness abuse in many cases become abusers as well.

There was one particular point highlighted in the bio-musical that I was unaware of, I didn't know that Tina's first child, Raymond Craig Turner (Lillian Charles) was fathered by Raymond Earl Hill (Taylor A. Blackman), a saxophonist in Ike's band, The Kings Of Rhythm. This fact illuminated even more just how conflicting and challenging Tina Turner's life really was. Ike would hold her captive with the premise that "everyone in my life have left me, you promised never to leave me". So for 16 years she stayed and endured the horrific beatings and abuse until she discovered the courage within herself to fight back.

I do admire the fact that the bio-musical took the time to focus on Tina's rise to acclaim after the struggles she faced after divorcing Ike. The only thing she asked for was her name, Tina Turner, everything else during her tumultuous marriage to Ike Turner...she gave up. Sometimes, you have to give up to receive. Sometimes, you have to end something to begin again. She had a difficult road ahead, singing at various bars and Las Vegas clubs while facing financial hardships that even led to foreclosure. Yet, she persevered. Sometimes, you have to show folks who gave you the opportunity that it wasn't the opportunity alone that made you successful, but your talent and gift propelled you in the public eye.

I loved her quest to finally do and sing what she desired...Rock and Roll music and how Australian born producer, Roger Davies (Zachary Freier-Harrison) invested in her to manage her career to climb that mountain to the top to become one of the greatest singers that has ever graced this earth. At age 44, Mrs. Tina Turner received her first and only number one hit, What's Love Got To Do With It. The song earned her a Grammy Award for "Record of the Year". Her songs/music has been the blueprint of many of our lives for many decades! Some of my favorites: Proud Mary; Nutbush City Limits; We Don't Need Another Hero; River Deep-Mountain High; Private Dancer; What's Love Got To Do With It; (Simply) The Best and the list goes on and on.

I want to give kudos to leading ladies, Zurin Villanueva and Naomi Rodgers. Anyone who would DARE to step in the shoes of the legendary Tina Turner has humongous courage and confidence. Queen Tina is simply...The Best. Trying to capture the essence of who she is in a bio-musical...in such a short timespan...in a theater of diehard Tina Turner fans is a huge undertaking. There are lot of facts and experiences condensed into a night of entertainment. There is no way to tell it all or even capture it all in true fashion.

I want to give special attention to the finale. During that final concert, seeing Zurin Villanueva walk down those stairs...at the end, I finally saw Tina Turner. It was surreal. Thank you, to the cast of Tina (The Tina Turner Musical) for reminding us of the importance and impact that music has always made, especially in my African American community, and the huge contribution of those who literally "laid down their lives" to make it possible. She showed us that it isn't too late to begin again and accomplish your dreams...at any age. Tina proved to us that you can change gears (from R&B to Rock and Roll) and be successful at it. What's Love Got To Do With It? Everything! We love you, Tina Turner.

**Tina (The Tina Turner Musical) will be performed at the Belk Theater through January 1. Visit The Blumenthal Arts website at https://www.blumenthalarts.org for ticket information.



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