Inspired cast makes Tina Turner musical a great performance
By Kim Hwang
AAP Theater Review
“Tina: The Tina Turner the Musical” is on stage now through March 12 at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Minneapolis.
Despite an unfortunate development of COVID-19 spreading among some of the cast, opening night was a success. Understudies who filled in for sick cast members rose to the occasion and made it feel like opening night. At 7:15 p.m. overwhelming energy filled the crammed lobby, while ticket goers packed into the main theater to see the highly anticipated production.
The production initially debuted in 2019, in London’s West End and in Hamburg, Germany. The Broadway musical has gone on to win 12 Tony nominations. On Nov. 8,2022, the Queen of Rock and Roll herself, Tina Turner, joined the cast on stage to communicate her overwhelming gratitude to the performers for their amazing artistry. In a recent Netflix documentary, Turner communicated a hope that the musical will live on to be part of the legacy she leaves behind.
Vocalist and performer Ayvah Johnson, who is 9 years old, performed in Act I with a soulful voice that penetrated my heart. Young Johnson used her powerful vocal range and opened with, “Nutbush City Limits.” Johnson infused a deep level of passion into the song that mesmerized the audience.
This musical unfolded the tragic storyline of what it was like for Tina Turner to live in an abusive relationship for 16 years. The musical underscored the broad range of complicated challenges Tina Turner survived while married to Ike Turner, her cruel and toxic husband, (performed by Garrett Tuner). Tina Turner spent most of her life crafting her musical repertoire all while trapped into a relationship with a tyrant. The musical revealed that Tina Turner desperately searched for a way out and was finally able to save her herself and her family by leaving Ike.
Zurin Villanueva, who performed as Tina Turner, was fastidious in her performance of Turner throughout her life. Villanueva triumphantly portrayed every aspect of Tina Turner’s voice, choreographed dance and acting. She took the story of Tina Turner’s nightmarish life and showed how she was able to transform her struggles into resilience and epic strength.
Villanueva’s demanding role of personifying emotional highs and lows were spot on. Act II got everyone singing Tina Turner’s classics like, “Private Dancer,” “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” The icing on the cake was the show finale performance, which duplicated the live show I saw when Tina Turner performed her global tour after her divorce.
The timing of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” at the Orpheum in March, “Women’s History Month,” and on the heels of February, “Black History Month,” was serendipitous. Tina Turner’s life story reminds me that Black women are bold, beautiful and brilliant! Villanueva’s passion and commitment to her performance, transformed Tina Turner’s life story leaving me feeling emboldened and reinvigorated.