Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
Tina - The Tina Turner Musical
As a young Anna Mae Bullock (the crowd pleasing Ayvah Johnson), Tina witnesses abuse between her parents and is sent to live with her Gran, Georgeanna (portrayed by former lead vocalist of the Grammy-winning group Sounds of Blackness, Ann Nesby). Brought up in the church but with a natural urge to stand out and sing the emotions she feels inside, Tina eventually reunites with her mother Zelma (Roz White) and older sister Alline (Paris Lewis) in St. Louis. The adult Tina is a role that is cast in this tour with two alternating actors, Naomi Rodgers and the outstanding Zurin Villanueva at the performance I attended.
It is in St. Louis where Tina meets the man who will bring her stardom and heartache: Ike Turner (a capable Garrett Turner). Ike wants fame and acceptance desperately and sees Tina as his ticket to it all. He convinces her to change her name and starts up a band for the two of them. Ike manipulates her to marry him to keep as much of a hold on her as he can. In the early days, though, Tina's heart belongs to Raymond (Gordan Hayes), a member of the band, which causes more tension. The story of her abuse, exploitation and suffering is well known, as is the story of her leaving Ike and striking out on her own despite the threats and roadblocks he puts in her way. She eventually prevails, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Though Zurin Villanueva's singing may drift into caricature a bit, her voice reaches the rafters, and her energy never lets up. As the young Anna Mae, Ayvah Johnson proves that big voices can reside in small bodies. She is a lively match for Ms. Villanueva.
Under the direction of Phyllida Lloyd, the production flows seamlessly. The book by Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar, and Kees Prins feels tight and engaging throughout. Jeff Sugg's projection design is a standout and provides eye-catching backgrounds that make up quite a bit for Mark Thompson's sparse scenic design. Thompson also provides costumes, which capture each of Tina's eras, including many of the iconic looks that have come to identify her. With rock concert-worthy lighting by Bruno Poet and sound by Nevin Steinberg, the show builds to the best part of the entire production: the finale, "(Simply) The Best," followed by two bonus numbers. Though the production is good overall, this closing is almost worth the ticket price by itself, and it's the next best thing to seeing Tina herself performing live.
Tina - The Tina Turner Musical, presented by Truist Broadway at DPAC, runs through through January 8, 2023, at Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham NC. For tickets and information, visit www.dpacnc.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 919-680-2787, or the Ticket Center at DPAC in person. For more information on the tour, visit tinaonbroadway.com.
Book: Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar, and Kees Prins