by Lynn on June 28, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto, Ont. Playing until July 28, 2024.

Book by Katori Hall with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Choreography by Anthony Van Laast

Set and costumes by Mark Thompson

Lighting by Bruno Poet

Sound by Nevin Steinberg

Projections by Jeff Sugg

Cast: John Battagliese

Antonio Beverly

Sarah Bockel

Brianna Cameron

Omar Madden

Deon Releford-Lee

Carla Stewart

Zurin Villanueva

Dylan S. Wallace

Roz White

And a large, hard-working chorus.

A raucous, energy-filled musical about the roller-coaster life of super-star Tina Turner.

Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock) had a life full of deep lows and exuberant success. Her mother ignored her perhaps because of jealousy and sent Anna Mae to live with her grandmother.

When Anna Mae was 17, she met and impressed Ike Turner with her singing. Ike was  a smooth rock and roller and she joined his band. He was charming at first then physically abused her for the 17 years they were together. He changed her name to Tina, married her after which she took his last name. She recorded albums with Ike and found her true rock voice and stage abilities. When she could not bear Ike’s abuse any longer, she left him with only $.36 in her pocket. Through guts, will and determination her luck turned around for her after 40 when she was given a new chance at stardom on her own, and true love with a man who adored her.

Award-winning playwright Katori Hall with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins have created a book of the musical that touches on the basics of the story. There is no deep character development and no layered establishment of relationships in Tina, The Tina Turner Musical.  Fans of Tina Turner’s work will probably already know the minutiae of her life. They certainly will know the Tina Turner song book. The creators of Tina, The Tina Turner Musical, uses Tina Turner’s hits to forward the story somewhat from “Let’s Stay Together”, “Proud Mary”,  “Private Dancer”, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” etc.

Director Phyllida Lloyd, choreographer Anthony Van Laast and set and costume designer Mark Thompson worked together on the hugely successful Mamma Mia! and perhaps hope to strike gold again with Tina, The Tina Turner Musical.

Whoever is cast to play Tina will come under some scrutiny—can she pull it off and make us believe she is Tina Turner, that fireball of energy and grit? Will she have the chops and the voice that’s needed to carry over a stadium packed with fans. In the case of Zurin Villanueva who sang the role of Tina at my performance, the answer is a strong ‘yes.’ (She shares the role with Ari Groover)

Zurin Villanueva is a strong actor who can illuminate Tina’s vulnerability and her strong backbone. She has grit and tenderness. And she has the energetic body movements of Tina but does not play her as a copy or caricature. Villanueva brings her own interpretation to the role but still illuminates the essence of Tina Turner. And she has a belting voice. I just wished that I could understand what she was singing (and I know those songs). Enunciation is not a strong suit in this performance, and that’s a shame The energy required to be on stage for almost the whole three hours, to belt out song after song and to recreate the Tina’s particular choreography, requires the stamina of an athlete and Zurin Villanueva is certainly that.

As Ike, Deon Releford-Lee has a charm and smoothness that quickly gives way to a meanness that turns to violence. Ike was a serial womanizer and cocaine addict. But he had an eye for talent and he saw it in Tina. As Tina’s mother Zelma, Roz White is cold wisdom. Tina only wanted her mother’s love and acceptance and rarely got it. Roz White plays Zelma slowly revealing her own demons.  

Director Phyllida Lloyd and choreographer, Anthony Van Laast have created a fast paced, swift moving show that is really a concert of Tina Turner’s song book. Bruno Poet’s lighting is dazzling, bombarding the audience with light. The effect is rousing and exhausting. Ultimately, we see what made Tina Turner so famous. We only need to hear her first name to know who that was.

Mirvish Productions presents:

Plays until July 28, 2024

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes approx. but closer to 3 hours (1 intermission)

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