SHAKING IT PROUD DOWNTOWN WITH TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL

Born Anna Mae Bullock in Tennessee, the girl who was to become Tina Turner was born to a sharecropping overseer and worked picking cotton at an early age.  Homelife was tumultuous with an abusive father and a mother who abandoned her to her grandmother at age 11.

It can be very difficult to take songs from an artist’s body of work and try to fit it into a 2-hour life story, so pieces of Tina’s life become abbreviated, as do many of the songs.  That does not take away from the talent onstage.

Both the roles of Tina and Young Anna Mae are double-cast, with the actresses alternating productions.  I saw Ari Groover, who was part of the Broadway company, as Tina.  Parris Lewis had that evening off.  Considering the quality of reproducing the “Queen of Rock and Roll’s” sound and moves, I’m sure that seeing either of these women would be just as impressive.

Parris Lewis / Ari Groover as Tina

Then there was the powerhouse in a nutshell:  Symphony King as Young Anna Mae.  I am sure that she and her counterpart, Brianna Cameron, will be performing for years to come with the amount of talent required for this role.  The other double-cast youth role was Young Alline/Young Craig with another young serious talent, Daelyanna Kelly Benson.  Her co-cast is Natalia Nappo.  Alline is Tina’s sister, while Craig is her first-born son.

Symphony King / Brianna Cameron

A crowd favorite was Wydetta Carter and Gran Georgeanna, Tina’s maternal grandmother.  Rounding out the immediate family are Roz White as Tina’s mother, Zelma, and Gigi Lewis as Alline at an older age.

Gran, Ike, Zelma

No TINA cast would be complete without Ike Turner (Deon Releford-Lee), the man who discovered a young talent, gave her voice lessons, and even created and trademarked her name.  Their early relationship was platonic as well as profitable.  An abuser, Ike’s use of cocaine got worse over the course of their relationship, leading to increased abuse and even an overdose by Tina, herself.

Tina Turner finally fled from Ike during a violent bout.  Even though she had done some solo work previously, she became a single mother who had to reinvent her image and career at 30.  It was after leaving Ike that she became free to soar as a artist.

TINA has a very large touring cast.  In general, it is a more experienced troupe, recreating accents, locations, and events within the life of Tina Turner.  This includes orchestra members coming onstage to participate intermittently as band members throughout Tina’s life.  The choreography, costuming, and set constantly moved, with numerous quick-changes in the middle of everything.

I have two critiques.  First, the sound system was too loud for too much of the show, leaving quite a few of us with ringing ears as we left, not to mention that it tended to drown out the performers.  The other is that the very last scene transitions with a very sudden light strobe, for which there was no obvious warning.  Anyone sensitive to a strobe needs to be aware.

TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL is limited run March 5-10, 2024, at the Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts.  Ticket prices vary based on show and seating.  For tickets, go to fscjartistseries.org or call (904) 632-5000.

by Cessy Newmon

About Cessy Newmon