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Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Book by Katori Hall, with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Choreographed by Anthony Van Laast
The Fox Theatre
November 14, 2023

Parris Lewis and Band
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical North American Tour

St. Louis loves Tina Turner. Lots of people around the world love her, but St. Louis has a special connection. The legendary icon of rock n’ roll, pop, soul, and R & B spent several formative years here, and got her start playing in clubs on both sides of the river. Those early years, along with the rest of her celebrated career are highlighted in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, currently onstage of the Fox and featuring a strong cast, especially in the title role, along with many hits from the singer’s career. 

Actually, “singer” is a bit simplistic in describing Tina Turner’s talents. She was a multi-talented entertainer who could sing, dance, and make an audience take notice. As with other “jukebox” bio-musicals, this show uses the artist’s musical catalogue to tell the story of her life, but even more than other shows in this vein, this one seems to depend much more on its star as the central focus. The title of this show mentions Tina twice, and that emphasis is evident in the structure of the show, which uses songs by Tina and occasional other artists to tell her story through the years, from young Anna Mae Bullock’s childhood in Tennessee to her career as an international superstar, with all the trials, tribulations, and triumphs along the way. Considering the colossal talent it’s portraying, the musical essentially demands great casting in the title role, and this touring production has that. The role of Tina is shared by two performers who alternate performances–Ari Groover and Parris Lewis. On opening night at the Fox, Lewis took the stage with energy, stage presence, convincing emotional range, and most of all, the towering vocals that Tina Turner was known for on classic songs like “Proud Mary”, “River Deep, Mountain High”, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and more. 

There is a strong supporting cast, as well, led by Roz White as Tina’s mother, Zelma, Wydetta Carter as Gran Georgeanna, and especially young Brianna Cameron as the young Anna Mae, who shows off great presence and powerful vocals as the girl who will eventually become known to the world as Tina Turner. There’s also a fine performance from Deon Releford-Lee, making the most of the difficult role of Ike Turner, who discovers the teenage Anna Mae, gives her her stage name and eventually marries her, also revealing himself to be controlling, philandering, and abusive. The drama in their relationship is difficult to watch at times, and the story gains more momentum once Tina is on her own. There’s a strong ensemble as well, with the production numbers being especially strong in re-creating live performances from Tina’s career, both with Ike and without.

The staging is dynamic and energetic, with a versatile set and eye-catching costumes by Mark Thompson, and excellent projections by Jeff Sugg that help maintain the sense of movement throughout the story. There’s also strong lighting by Bruno Poet and sound by Nevin Steinberg, as well as a great band led by music director Anne Shuttlesworth. 

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is a fitting tribute to its celebrated subject. If you’re a fan, there’s a lot to like here. The proclamation of Tina Turner Month in St. Louis by the mayor’s office after the curtain call on opening night was a great bonus, as well. This is a show that fits especially well at the Fox, in a city and metro area where this musical icon got her start. It’s an entertaining show, with a memorable leading performance.

Brianna Cameron and Cast
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical North American Tour

The North American Tour of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is running at the Fox Theatre until November 26, 2023

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