REVIEW: The Tina Turner Musical

Tina. Singer. Dancer. Survivor. Woman Warrior.

While Tina’s stage career may be well-known, her life prior to fame and behind the curtain is not. The Tina Turner Musical shines light in the darker places – the segregated and violently racial South (a not-so-distant past), brutal and all-too-common domestic violence, parental neglect/abandonment, and seemingly every cruelty that can be specially delivered to a black woman.

Tina. A saucy mixture of grace and grit personified. So much talent, so much struggle. Challenges that to most, would be unsurmountable. Born Ana Mae in Nutbush Tennessee, Tina was abandoned by a mother who felt Ana Mae was “too much fire” and wanted more to life than picking cotton. Ana Mae’s father left shortly thereafter, and Tina was raised by her grandmother until she was a teen.

Upon her grandmother’s insistence, Tina’s mother agreed to let Tina come live with her in St. Louis. Shortly thereafter, Ana Mae was discovered by Ike, who named her Tina. And Ike owned Tina. Her name, her music, her career, her life. Tina had fame on the surface, and hell beneath.

While Tina was a victim, she never let that define her. After enduring 16 years of abuse, she left. With no money, not even the rights to her own songs, she sang small gigs at night and spent long days “cleaning toilets” to provide a safe haven for her sons. Though the “repo man” was often at the door, at least they were free from daily beatings. And Tina had her name. To her, that was of utmost importance.

Like the jubilant young voice of Ana Mae that could not be subdued or silenced in church choir, the powerful voice of Tina the woman could not be denied. Tina overcame enormous odds to find success in her 40s, on her own terms. Tina was seemingly untouchable after Ike was done with her; Capitol records had no intention of backing a “woman ni**er” and certainly not without male representation. Tina made the difficult decision to leave her female manager and travel to London to work with a young Australian who, enraptured by Tina’s voice, fought for Tina to have studio time.

The rest is history.

The role of Tina requires a powerhouse to bring to life. The outfits, the hair, the dancing, and of course, the singing – it seems impossible to pack all of that into one human. This production does Tina justice. The Tina Turner Band is onstage and a centerpiece of the show, revealed for the final numbers. The entire cast returns for close, and all Tina asks is for the audience to stand on their feet and sing with them.

We happily obliged.

Tina Turner the Musical is playing at the Orpheum from March 1-13. Tickets start at $40.
DEAL ALERT: In-person Student/Educator rush will be available for all performances of Tina — The Tina Turner Musical :
• $40 cash only
• 2 ticket limit per valid Student/Educator ID
• Starts 2 hours prior to show in person at the Orpheum Theatre
• Line forms outside the theatre
Review by Kavita Battula