TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL
First Night Review
at The Saenger Theater
Broadway loves a comeback, stars and subjects alike. Recently, there’s been a renaissance of women who turn their real life lemons into showtime lemonade. There’s Pamela Anderson, hot off her documentary and literary forays into memoir, who poured her exploitation and heartbreak into her performance in the Broadway revival of Chicago as Roxie Hart. But the award for crisis management and reinvention has to go to Tina Turner - both the real superstar, and the star of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, now touring its Broadway show at the Saenger Theater. With an emphasis on energy, heart, and soul, this musical is a true testament to the resilience and strength of one of the greatest musical icons of our time.
The production opens with a young Anna-Mae Bullock, discovering her gifts and witnessing the breakdown of her turbulent family. From there, the audience is taken on a journey through the ups and downs of Tina's life, including her rise to fame, her tumultuous relationship with her former husband Ike Turner, and her eventual triumph as a solo artist. Throughout the show, Tina's music serves as the backbone, providing a pulse-pounding soundtrack that keeps the audience bouncing in their seats.
The lead actress, Naomi Rodgers, is phenomenal as Tina Turner. She channels spirit and stage presence, delivering powerful vocals and electrifying performances of hits such as 'River Deep, Mountain High', 'What's Love Got to Do with It', and 'Private Dancer'. The supporting cast is equally impressive. The runaway fan favorite was Ayvah Johnson (a Slidell native!) as Young Anna-Mae, who immediately sells Tina’s prodigious nature by virtue of being a singing and acting prodigy herself. Garrett Turner as Ike—no relation, I expect—is pitch-perfect in his mercurial performance, swinging from smooth charm to rage to sniveling as quickly as the tempo changes. The choreography is also a highlight, with faithful reproductions of the high-energy routines that vaulted Tina and the Ikettes to stardom.
In addition to the music, Tina - The Tina Turner Musical provides a glimpse into the personal struggles and triumphs of Tina's life. The show chronicles her journey from a battered young artist to a confident and empowered woman, exploring themes of abuse, resilience, and self-discovery. The show even touches on some of the tools she uses along the way: the reciprocal abuse learned from her parents’ relationship; the support from her bandmates and tour manager, also victims of Ike’s temper; and the Buddhist meditation practices that finally give her the strength to leave. It's a moving tribute to the fortitude of the human spirit and the power of perseverance.
The production design is also noteworthy, with stunning lighting and outstanding costume design that all come together to create a truly immersive experience. If you missed the iconic performances of the Ike and Tina Revue or Tina Turner when she was playing live, you’ll feel transported into some of the most memorable shows of the last 50 years. The use of projections, sound design, and special effects are especially effective during scene transitions, which seem to happen almost instantly thanks to the actors doubling as stage crew. This makes what could be a long show move at a clip, allowing the audience to remain immersed in the story being told on stage.
Overall, it's a dynamic and entertaining celebration of one of the most beloved musical legends of all time. The show is a must-see for fans of Tina and anyone looking for a toe-tapping night. New Orleans showed up in its best sequined and fringed getups for the affair, so your 80s wig won’t be out of place. Plus, there’s just something special about dancing and singing to 'Proud Mary' mere blocks away from the bank of the river herself, and it's an experience that will leave you feeling empowered and inspired. (Eileen Daley)
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical plays at The Saenger through February 12th. More information and tickets here.
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