Review: TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL - Simply the Best in Columbus

BWW Review: TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL - Simply the Best

By: May. 09, 2024
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Review: TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL - Simply the Best in Columbus
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TINA: The Tina Turner Musical came blazing in like a bolt of lightning with thunderous applause on opening night at the Ohio Theatre, just as most of our state was under severe tornado warnings.  TINA tells the remarkable story of the musical legend, and shares it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so be prepared for some cringe-worthy moments of raw and jolting physical, verbal and emotional abuse.  Despite that, TINA also shares her triumphant journey of resilience, redemption, freedom, and ultimate superstardom.  

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical
Brianna Cameron as young Anna Mae
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
for MurphyMade, 2022

We begin as a young Anna Mae (Brianna Cameron) upstaging the entire church choir in her hometown of Nutbush, Tennessee, which doesn’t go over well with her mother who thinks she should be more restrained.  When Anna Mae’s mother, Zelma (Shari Washington Rhone) scolds her for singing too loudly, her preacher father comes to her defense and the two get into a physical altercation.  Anna Mae’s mother takes off with Anna Mae’s older sister, Alline (Natalia Nappo) and heads to St. Louis to start a new life.  Anna Mae’s father can’t bear the thought of raising her alone, and also walks out on his little daughter.  Left in the sequela of abuse and abandonment by her parents, Anna Mae goes to live with her supportive Gran Georgeanna (Carla R. Stewart) who encourages her to move to St. Louis as a teenager to make amends with her mother and foster her God-given singing talent.

It is here in St. Louis where Anna Mae is discovered in a club by local star Ike Turner (Deon Releford-Lee), and sets off on her whirlwind path of fame, love, marriage, destruction, and everything in between, all puppeteered by Ike’s inflated ego which manifests into a controlling and abusive relationship.

As we journey through Tina’s rise and fall and Phoenix-esque rise again in her personal and professional life, one thing is certain: Tina is a force.  Zurin Villanueva, who alternates playing the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll, is an absolute powerhouse of blazing vitality and vocal genius.  She captures Tina’s gravelly yet celestial voice flawlessly, which is also a reflection of Tina’s very life.  For as much as she was abused, mistreated, poverty-stricken, abandoned, and downtrodden, Tina persevered with strength, determination, courageous indomitability, and even with a naive laughter.  Villanueva attacks her songs much like Tina’s life – with ferocious volcanic energy softened with melancholy truth.  “I Don’t’ Want to Fight No More” and “I Can’t Stop the Rain” are stirringly poignant, while “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Proud Mary,” and “Simply the Best” encompass her exuberant comeback.

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical
Zurin Villanueva as Tina Turner
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
for MurphyMade, 2022

While this may seem like a one-woman show, I’d be terribly remiss not to mention the rest of the incredibly talented cast.  Beginning with young Anna Mae (Brianna Cameron on opening night), she is a turbo of talent with a voice you rarely hear as a fourth grader.  Cameron captures Tina’s essence as a young child superbly.  Note:  Do NOT leave before curtain call – trust me.  Saving a couple minutes to rush to your car is definitely not worth missing the sensational unrestrained mini-concert at the very end, which feels like a welcomed climax following the heaviness of the story.

Deon Releford-Lee maintains a strong, dominant presence with a booming voice in his portrayal of the villain Ike Turner.  Gigi Lewis plays Tina’s sister Alline with warmth and sass, and Shari Washington Rhone and Carla R. Stewart are both excellent as Tina’s mother and grandmother, respectively. Sarah Bockel as Tina’s manager Rhonda Graham is a loyal and compassionate friend to Tina till the end.  The rest of the cast are equally extraordinary and perform their roles with brilliance.

While just shy of 3 hours long, the musical still moves at a swift pace and keeps the audience engaged with clever use of Tina’s hit songs throughout.  Anthony Van Laast’s fiery choreography showcases the cast’s tremendous explosive energy, and Bruno Poet’s lighting seamlessly transports the audience from one scene to the next.  The orchestra directed by Dani Lee Hutch completely encompasses the theatre and feels like a fully staged concert.  

TINA: THE Tina Turner MUSICAL is sure to appeal to all audiences, whether you are a lifelong follower of the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll, or you’ve sung karaoke to some of her famous songs.  Just be aware that some scenes may be disturbing to watch if you bring young children (there are jolting depictions of domestic violence, vulgar language, and use of the “N” word).

It’s worth repeating that you do not want to miss the explosive finale that will bring you to your feet and fill you with all the love, joy, and gratitude that Tina gave the world.

TINA: THE Tina Turner MUSICAL is now playing at the Ohio Theatre through May 12th.  For tickets:

  • 1. Order online at Ticketmaster.com.
  • 2. Call the CBUSArts Ticket Center at 614-469-0939.
  • 3. Visit the CBUSArts Ticket Center at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State Street).
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TINA – The Tina Turner Musical is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Katori Hall and directed by the internationally acclaimed Phyllida Lloyd




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