Tina Review: Adrienne Warren Gives a Solid Star Turn

Adrienne Warren as Tina Turner in Tina—The Tina Turner Musical

Adrienne Warren as Tina Turner in Tina—The Tina Turner Musical

After a sustained and riotous standing ovation on this preview night, the curtain call abandoned any pretense of narrative and went straight for a live concert experience, letting Warren rip into reprises of some Turner's signature hits. But I knew she was familiar to me for something else, and then I saw it-she starred in "Bring It On: The Musical" on Broadway.

When the Atlanta PR I occasionally work with contacted me and asked would I consider doing a review of "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical" appearing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, located at 205 West 46th St, NYC, I said consider it done.

The musical covers the songs Tina sang with Ike and the songs she sang after Ike.

To be sure, the narrative arc is hardly challenging, advancing step by step in strict chronological order as dictated by the trajectory of the songs. Apart from showcasing the unpleasant childhood of the singer, they also showcased the relationship of the singer with Ike, who was her ex-husband and treated Tina with years of humiliation and abuse. Director Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) has staged the show with minimal subtlety-whenever Ike (Daniel J. Watts, in the ultimate thankless role) does cocaine, which is often, he waves a big bag of white powder in the air-and several of the supporting actors pitch their performances to the second balcony. Warren embodies Tina Turner to the max and, most importantly, sounds just like her, which is what truly gives this production a jarring authenticity. At this stage of her life, success means trashy gigs and flashy rags in Las Vegas clubs. It is absolutely captivating to see how she logically interweaves Tina Turner's songs into the engaging storyline. After seeing "Tina" you realize "We Don't Need Another Hero" because she's already here! A thrilling belter when called for, she flips some magical switch here and transforms herself into a real heartbreaker for the gorgeously moody "I Can't Stand the Rain". Playwright Katori Hall's book (written with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins) deals gingerly with his furious narcissism, his sudden jealous rages and his propensity for violence. She captured Tina's walk, voice, mannerism and dance numbers. But in this instance, a few choice words are all it takes to let us know that Ike has Tina locked in an abusive relationship.

These failings might not register as much in a lighthearted show, but they don't serve the seriousness of Turner's journey; this is a musical in which women and children are repeatedly brutalized onstage, and the heroine ends the first act with her face smeared in blood. Instead, their frenetic, glitter-strewn script rushes headlong through almost every scene, galloping past the biographical milestones of an extraordinary life only long enough to mark them and move on to what the audience has presumably come for: the music.

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