“Tina”: The New Musical Is Sensational

Last week, I continued my walk down memory lane at a theater in London where I saw the new hit musical, “Tina.” You may remember, I recently wrote a piece about the new movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a story about the great rock group, Queen.

A 30-year old phenom, Adrienne Warren, played the Tina Turner role and brought the house down. The once nominated actress has a respectable list of credits to her name. I’m confident she will be critically acclaimed for this performance.

Ms. Warren is gorgeous and can sing and dance like nobody. She was perfectly casted to play Tina. Ms. Warren was beaming throughout the entire show and really connected with the audience.

Everything about the performance was entertaining. Ms. Warren must have spent long hours trying to emulate Tina’s dance moves. The costumes and staging were captivating. The show ended with a mini concert during which Ms. Warren had every person in the theater dancing and singing along with her. All of Tina’s most famous songs were performed during the evening including “Proud Mary,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “Private Dancer.”

But the show was about the life and times of Tina Turner, one of the most charismatic performers of the late 20th Century. Her life was affected by every challenge one would expect for a poor black entertainer in her day.

She was brought up in abject poverty in Nutbush, Tennessee. Both of her parents abandoned her when she was a young girl, and her grandmother raised her. She found meteoric success along with every kind of abuse.

A lot of time was dedicated to Tina’s relationship with Ike Turner, a despicable two-bit hustler, who took advantage of a naïve and helpless young girl. She was Ike’s prisoner for years. He beat her and stole her money. Along the way, they had two boys. Kobna Holdbrook- Smith played the role of Ike. His performance was so authentic that I fully expected the audience to boo him at the conclusion of the show. Thankfully they did not.

As I look back on Tina’s life, I can’t help think about all the black women with extraordinary talent that experienced the same issues as Tina. In many situations, they were sentenced to lives as back-up singers for little money, supporting big musical acts. So often their booming voices were pigeonholed and masked so as not to upstage featured singers. Darlene Love was one such singer. In the movie “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” she tells her story. It’s worth seeing.

Tina was yet another casualty of misogyny, bigotry and sexual abuse. She had all the talent in the world and incredible stage presence, but Ike needed to manipulate her. At long last Tina broke free of Ike Turner, and she went back on stage as a solo act.

The show was inspirational, yet I suspect more so for women than men in the current environment. But you can bet Adrienne Warren is going to be a super star.

I hope the show comes to Broadway in the near future and Tina Turner receives the accolades she deserves for being a great entertainer for so many years.