“Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – October 11, 2023


“Tina – The Tina Turner Musical”
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

Singer, dancer, and actor Tina Turner had quite a career.  Made a star by vicious, mean, and abusive first husband Ike Turner, she abruptly abandoned him to establish herself as an even bigger entertainer prior to her well-deserved European retirement and untimely recent death.

So naturally, Broadway decided to capitalize on her fame by creating a tribute extravaganza, “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical,” which started as a London West End triumph before transferring successfully to Broadway.  Much of the show’s brilliance stemmed from Adrienne Warren’s dynamic star turn as Tina in both places.

Now cities throughout the United States get to see the show but the road company fails to blaze like the original production for multiple reasons.  The biggest disappointment is Ari Groover’s inadequate performance as Tina.  Groover neither looks nor sounds like Tina and sadly she never becomes Tina.  Groover understudied the role on Broadway but obviously is not as perfect in the role as Warren was originally. Groover shares the role with Naomi Rodgers.  Groover always duplicates Tina’s famous moves and sound but Groover is always playing Tina never becoming her. One hoped the performer playing Tina would duplicate the singer’s elegantly stylized and hip-hopping performance with explosive sparks as a close approximation of Tina in her heyday.  That just doesn’t happen.

The road company’s terrible sound system coupled with ASU Gammage’s miserable acoustics for Broadway musicals make comprehension of any of the shows lyrics impossible.  The musical, written by Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar, and Kees Prins, is boringly long, overly detailed about the singer’s tragic life, and tediously repetitious so it runs just under three hours.  The show does include graphic mention of deplorable discrimination experienced by the singer.

Director Phyllida Lloyd, who did wonders with “Mamma Mia!,” allows the overwritten plot to drag between the energetic dance numbers choreographed with wild flair and pulsating accuracy by Anthony Van Laast.  The large cast is competent but nothing more as the many people who surround Turner. Flashy costumes and multiple sets well aided by colorful projections look good but the big blonde wig used for the show’s finale is sad.

“Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” slogs where it should explode with vibrant ferocity because the bland road production is not a duplication of the vibrantly glistening London or Broadway smash. With unnecessary story detail, bad sound, and lacking a dynamically dazzling star, the road company production makes the show insipid mediocrity. “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” continues through October 15.  To order tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 480-965-3434 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade:  C