COSTA MESA, Calif. – (NEWS4USONLINE) – There are a couple of notable takeaways from the North America tour of the Broadway musical “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” First, Zurin Villanueva, who shares co-billing as Tina Turner with Naomi Rodgers, is a bonafide star.
Villanueva turns portraying the late Turner during the press night showing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts into her own coming out party. Villanueva is simply brilliant.
The Howard University alum and former star of The Lion King, Mean Girls, and The Book of Mormon, draw on the force of Turner to bring a fierceness to her character that is hard to believe could be duplicated by anyone else.
It takes a star to portray one and Villanueva delivers the goods with plenty of power and electricity. From nearly the opening act (Act 1) you’re captivated by Villanueva’s affable and witty charm and her undeniable sway as the lead actor.
At times during the performance, it felt like the ghost of Turner was in the building and was able to give Villanueva a leg up on the rest of the show. Without skipping a transition beat, Villanueva effortlessly takes the audience down the road of a young Turner (Anna-Mae) trying to find her way in life after growing up in an abusive home to being a naïve teenager hooked by the snarls of an overly aggressive Ike Turner (Roderick Lawrence).
The development of the first act of the production centers largely on Villanueva’s Turner overcoming one abuse encounter to another. She goes from an abusive father to simply moving right into the arms of an even more abusive boyfriend and later husband in Ike. There isn’t anything really new about Turner’s life that is uncovered in “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.”
I mean, Angela Bassett delivered such a blistering performance of Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It” that she was nominated for an Academy Award. What “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” does is remind us of or present to those who may not have been around to see the two-time Rock & Roll of Fame singer that courage under fire is a real thing.
It shows us that abuse can be addictive and a generational chain that can be hard to break. However, what makes “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” a wonderful treat is that it also shows us what a true comeback can look like.
While the first act of the show is steep in Turner battling and confronting one trial after another, including a mother who walks out on her as a young child, the second act is filled with celebratory overtures. “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” is the “Private Dancer” singer’s triumph story.
Everyone loves a comeback story. Turner somehow rebounds from being a victim to being hailed as a heroine. She flips all those crying nights she endured to evenings of bliss in no small thanks to sheer grit and determination. It also helped that Turner was already in the national limelight as a world-class singer.
Navigating through all these many moments to share with the audience, Villanueva moves seamlessly with the aplomb of a natural. But as great as she is, Villanueva is surrounded by a talented cast that helps make “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” the hit Broadway show that it has become.
The show made its world premiere in 2018 and appeared on Broadway in 2019 and has been nominated for 12 Tony Awards. Lawrence is excellent as Ike in giving us the dastardly villain to hate. Carla R. Stewart (Gran Georgeanna), Roz White (Zelma), and Lael Van Keuren (Rhonda) are all amazing in their supporting roles.
Villanueva, however, is clearly the star of this show. The second impression left by the dazzling spectacle is all the dancing and moving which gives the audience an even better appreciation of Turner of what she did on the stage. And for how long she did it.
With the second act of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” going into a more upbeat and lighter tone, Villanueva and her crew dance at such a frenetic and breakneck pace that one has to wonder how is it that they can come back the next day to give another performance. Kudos to Villanueva and the cast because they nail it on the head with their ability to bring high energy to the end of the production.
It is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Anyone making plans to see “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” will probably come away with the same thought once they see this grand spectacle.
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.