An oft-tormented soul who drew from her struggles to conjure a succession of genre-defying anthems, Tina Turner lived a hard, loud life that yielded timeless musical treasures. "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical," weaves her greatest hits into the tapestry of her complicated biography.
"Tina" is just as much a concert as it is a theatrical production. The lead performer -- handled alternately by Ari Groover and Naomi Rodgers -- interacts with the audience as Turner would have, playing to the crowd and feeding off its energy. Roderick Lawrence handles the multifaceted, often villainous persona of Ike Turner with masterful presence, and Wydetta Carter is triumphant in a small but powerful role as matriarch Gran Georgeanna.
Rather than smoothing over the rough edges of Turner's life, the book explores the ugly realities Turner faced. Confrontations with racism, domestic violence and drug abuse are tough to endure, but necessary to grasp the struggles Turner dealt with.
The musical, which opened on the West End in 2018 and launched on Broadway in 2019, pulses with crowd-pleasing hits belted out with gusto. The songs are complemented by fevered backup dancing that synthesizes the trend-setting energy of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Physical stagecraft is largely barebones, yielding to a mesmerizing succession of projections that supplement the performers with often flashy, sometimes muted notes.
"Tina" bowls the audience over with an engaging rush of emotional performances in the opening act, punctuated by a showstopping performance of "River Deep - Mountain High." While the meandering second act struggles to maintain that energy, it manages to send off the audience in a flourish with a dizzying post-bow encore. It's impossible not to smile, admire the energy of the performers and nod in agreement with the echoes of "Simply the Best" bouncing through the rafters.
"Tina: The Tina Turner Musical" plays through Oct. 8 at Centennial Hall. Buy tickets here.