Review: TINA - THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

Was my first show of 2023 'Simply the Best'?

By: Jan. 04, 2023
Review: TINA - THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical follows the life and career of legendary recording artist Tina Turner. The story begins with her upbringing in Nutbush, Tennessee, continues with her tumultuous relationship with Ike Turner, and ends with her transformation into the global queen of rock 'n' roll. In case anyone's wondering, this is a different dramatization from the 1993 Academy Award nominated biographical film, What's Love Got to Do With It.

This show had its world premiere at the Aldwych Theatre in London's West End on April 17th, 2018. It went on to receive 3 Laurence Olivier Award nominations (including Best New Musical) and is currently still running there. Tina later opened on November 7th, 2019 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway. While its run was put on pause when all of Broadway shutdown on March 12th, 2020 due to COVID-19, it later resumed performances on October 8th the following year. The production closed on August 14th, 2022 after 482 performances. Now, the national tour is playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center through January 8th.

When it comes to biographical depictions of famous musicians, they tend to have a lot of similar tropes audiences recognize. Personally, it doesn't matter that much to me if I've seen familiar territory from other stories before in a new one. What's most important to me is the execution of it. I will say that the book by Frank Ketelaar, Kees Prins, & Katori Hall doesn't appear to have much of a conflict in the plot. The storytelling pretty much goes through some of the major bullet points of Tina Turner's career instead of going more in depth on certain aspects of them.

What really keeps this show afloat from beginning to end is the whole cast. Zurin Villanueva (who went on at the performance I attended) shares the title role with Naomi Rodgers. She delivers quite a powerhouse performance overall. Not only does she provide such strong acting in the book scenes, but also killer vocals in the musical numbers. She may not sound exactly like the real Tina Turner, but her voice does offer enough of a resemblance. While the stuff with Ike Turner may have felt underused, I thought Garrett Turner was still perfectly suave and cruel in that part. There's also some heartfelt performances from Roz White as her mother, Zelma Bullock, and Ann Nesby as her grandmother, Gran Georgeanna. I'd also like to give a shoutout to Ayvah Johnson, the little girl who plays Young Anna Mae Bullock, who'd grow up to become Tina Turner.

Under the direction of Phyllida Lloyd, some of the production values are in great shape. Anthony Van Laast's choreography is energetic. Ethan Popp crafted orchestrations that are very rock and roll like. Impressive lighting designed by Bruno Poet. Wonderful costumes from Mark Thompson. The sound design by Nevin Steinberg makes the whole thing feel like a rock concert without making it deafening for the ears.

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical isn't necessarily among the best jukebox/biomusicals out there. The book could use some conflict and more of a focus. Although when it comes to the rich vocals of the entire cast, it's hard to complain. I think baby boomers should especially be in for a great night out.


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