First things first: Adrienne Warren is a powerhouse that is grounded in emotion with a state-of-the-art delivery as she embodies Tina Turner on Broadway.
Following the West End production in London, previews for Broadway’s Tina: The Tina Turner Musical began on October 12 and will officially open on November 7 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
The Olivier and Tony nominated star, Adrienne Warren plays the title role, Tina, opposite Daniel J. Watts (Motown The Musical) as Ike Turner.
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Katori Hall with Victoria Chau and Kees Prins, Tina Turner’s greatest hits revive in this Broadway rendition from the legend’s riotous past leading to a triumphant Queen of Rock N’ Roll.
The show immediately engages the audience with a spirit-filled church service in Anna Mae Bullock’s Nutbush, Tennessee. Skye Dakota Turner enters by out singing and upstaging other churchgoers. She portrays a young and fearless Anna Mae Bullock—later named Tina Turner—who is dripping with talent and demanding to be heard.
The rising tensions follow a toe-tapping and hand-clapping preacher—Anna Mae’s father (David Jennings)— who opens the window to domestic violence, and shortly after, the soon-to-be legend is abandoned by her mother, Zelma (Dawnn Lewis).
The story unfolds quickly when Anna Mae is reunited with her mother and Ike Turner discovers her great singing voice in a nightclub. He wins Zelma’s consent and a 17-year old Tina joins his band on the road.
Daniel’s Ike Turner is cunning, smooth and able to pull off a passionate yet manipulative man who is overcome by drug abuse. When the substances take over, Daniel portrays a vicious husband who beats Tina repeatedly over the years.
Tina eventually strikes back and before the first act closes, she is running through a busy street, which is made visually possible with the help of a large backdrop that is simple, yet disturbing.
She makes a plea with the hotel concierge but it somehow feels directed towards the audience on a blank stage. Her pauses are telling of decades of mistreatment as the rapidly developed story takes a slow down in this carefully massaged monologue.
It’s at the moment of Adrienne’s lonesome staging intertwined with Turner’s most pivotal moment that lands so desperately in our laps as the Tony nominated actress seems to pour every ounce of herself on stage.
A reassuring transition ensues when Tina repeats a Buddhist chant and the ensemble joins down the aisles of the theater with lights in hand.
It is the believability and the music that sincerely drives the storytelling of a domestic violence survivor who beat the odds in a comeback Rock N’ Roll career.
Adrienne Warren is packed with Tina’s cadences and mannerisms, even the less obvious ones that show her intimate study of the legend’s posture, warrior-like footwork, fierce hair whips, and the specific way in which she focuses her energy out into the crowd.
Every move feels natural in such a way that is only explainable by Warren morphing into the Queen of Rock N’ Roll. But most importantly, Warren takes no shortcuts as she sings each lyric with conviction and truly lands that infamous raspy texture of Tina’s voice.
There is only one Tina Turner and Warren roars from a place of such exclusivity. She’ll arrest you with Anthony Van Laast’s intricate choreography if not that purely golden voice that takes us from Nutbush to London and back.
The Ikettes offer unmatched energy as well in all their musical numbers, and just when you’re sure they’ve given their all, they explode in an encore performance of high-powered shaking, twisting, kicking, and turning.
The audience seemed particularly drawn to Tina’s dramatic costume changes because each time they symbolized her transforming into the music legend she was always destined to be, surviving abuse in her marriage, neglect from her parents, and the pressures of stardom and adulthood.
There’s a scene where Mark Thompson’s lights flash so intensely that they blind you, and when you regain sight, you see a version of Tina you’ve never seen before both in the storyline and in the renditions that precede the Broadway run!
The turning point for Tina’s career is empowering and relevant in retrospect of our current societal tensions. Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the Broadway portrayal though is in fact the encore performance led by electrifying dance steps, solos, and a standing ovation.
Overall, the show is universal and leaves the audience joined in celebration by the close of the curtain.
Click here for tickets to the show.