Tina — The Tina Turner Musical has all the moves to honor the legend but lacks the soul to do justice to her singing and story.
|Venue Address||205 W 46th St, New York, NY|
|Writer(s)||Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar, Kes Prins|
|Total Time||2 Hours, 40 Minutes|
|Tina Turner||Nkeki Obi-Melekwe|
|Ike Turner||Daniel J. Watts|
|Erwin Bach||Ross Lekites|
|Raymond||Jhardon DiShon Milton|
Covering her childhood to what seemingly was her “Break Every Rule” World Tour, we watch as Anna Mae Bullock evolves into Tina Turner. This includes watching both of her parents abandon her to her sister taking her to the venue where Anna Mae meets Ike Turner. From there, we see the rise of Tina Turner, and of course, her tumultuous relationship with Ike. Then, to finish it off, we see part of her music comeback as well as the early days of her relationship with her now-husband, Erwin Bach.
If there is one element of the musical that rarely disappoints, it is the dancing and how the performers maneuver around the ever-shifting stage. It’s almost like the show cast every backup dancer who previously worked for Tina and got them to be in this show. Which often makes it so, when they are doing the various moves from “Proud Mary,” “Shake A Tailfeather,” and more, that is what makes you want to get out of your seat and dance in the aisles.
On The Fence
I’ll give the show this, Obi-Melekwe and Milton, their duet of “Let’s Stay Together,” was one of the best numbers of the entire musical. I’d even submit that Milton should be in the running for the title role if they ever make an Al Green musical. However, outside of that number, most of the 24 numbers range from forgettable to disappointing.
Why? Well, because most songs are made into ensemble affairs, duets, or sung by people who aren’t Tina Turner. Now, the gospel version of “Nutbush City Limits” at the beginning of the show, it is a welcomed change, and you can get into it. However, the changes done for the other songs, including Tina’s biggest hits? It’s hard to accept what you’re given.
But let me say, before we continue, it is understood that imitation forces an actor to compete and be more closely compared to the person their character is based on. So we recognize it isn’t easy for someone like Obi-Melekwe to take on Tina Turner, who has a specific look and voice. However, even in terms of nailing Turner’s sound? More often than not, the music seemed to prefer to do Broadway styling of doing the most even when it didn’t add anything to the moment. Which when it came to the dancing or comedic moments, that’s fine. But there was no soul when it came to them adding that extra oomph. It was just them being loud. Then when you add in people, alongside Tina, and not as backup singers, joining in on the hits? If not singing them without Tina? It makes you wish this wasn’t associated with Tina Turner just so you could have lowered your expectations going in.
The Lack Of Depth When Not Dropping A Joke Or Dancing
One of the things Tina — The Tina Turner Musical has going against it from the start is that Tina Turner’s story has been adapted and told enough times where this musical can’t expose you to anything new. Also, you’ve seen excellent performances likely before you even heard of this musical. Because of that, the expectations are high, and while the dancing and jokes, as mentioned, hold up, when it is time to get serious? The production flails.
How so? Well, there is a death scene featuring Tina’s mother, and the way her mother was acting didn’t match with the tone or what was said. You get that there was regret, and she acknowledged she was far from the perfect mother. Yet, something about the way things were handled sort of made it where you couldn’t take the moment seriously. It felt campy and sort of like the music, you understand you are watching a performance, but it lacked the polish you expect from a Broadway production. If not a story that is well told and, yes, has bright spots if you look at the performances, but when you consider how Tina Turner often talks about her life, you’d think that undercurrent of sadness and the struggle to not just survive but thrive would be stronger and felt.
Our Rating: Mixed (One & Done)
When it comes to the grandeur and comical moments, Tina — The Tina Turner Musical does what needs to be done. But when it is time to address Anna Mae Bullock’s trauma and sadness, it sometimes feels like an obligation they just want to get out of the way. Add in the music is a shared task rather than wholly that of the person playing Tina Turner, and it makes it one of the lesser jukebox musicals available on Broadway and certainly one we wouldn’t say should be too high on your list.