Walking into “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” LA premiere at the Pantages in Hollywood was bittersweet. The Queen of Rock and Roll had passed away only a short few weeks prior at the age of 83. She was honored with an updated program cover and guest books in the entrance of the lobby for audience goers to add tributes.
Turner’s six-plus decade career is told chronologically by book writers Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins and features more than 20 of her hit songs.
What makes this an exceptional musical is Naomi Rodgers outstanding spot-on energetic performance in the lead role, which she shares with Zurin Villanueva. It’s easy to see why two performers share the demanding lead role – each star in four performances a week – and are onstage for most of the 2 hours and 40 minute run time.
Under Phyllida Lloyd’s masterful direction, the musical never drags and delivers nonstop exceptional performances by the entire cast. At times it felt like the audience was transported into an 80’s Turner concert including lighting designer Bruno Poet spotlighting the crowd for “She Made My Blood Run Cold” and adding disco effects for “Disco Inferno.” Jeff Snug provides flashback projections and Mark Thompson’s costumes deliver glitz and fashion.
The first half of “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” focuses on Turner’s abusive childhood, joining the Ike & Tina Turner Review, turbulent marriage and starting over as a solo artist. Some of Turner’s hits are brilliantly used in place of dialog, including when childhood Tina (Ayvah Johnson) leaves grandmother (Carla R. Stewart) for the “Don’t Turn Around” duet and in the duet with sax playing boyfriend Raymond (Gerard M. Williams) for “Let’s Stay Together.”
Roderick Lawrence’s portrayal of Ike is impressive as Turner’s philandering abusive mentor turned husband and Roz White gives depth to Tina’s impossible to please mother.
The second act follows Turner’s rise as a solo artist with many of her 80’s hits including “What’s Love Got to Do With It, “ “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” and “Private Dancer.”
On premiere night the audience got a special treat, an incredible encore culminating with the entire audience dancing to “Proud Mary.”
It’s fitting to experience “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” blocks away from Turner’s star on the Walk of Fame and Capital Records, where she recorded many of the hits from the musical.
Playing at the Pantages, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, 8pm Tuesdays – Fridays, 2pm and 8pm Saturdays and 1 and 6:30pm Sundays. Ends July 9. Tickets start at $49, info at 800.982.2782, www.BroadwayinHollywood.com and www.Ticketmaster.com. Also plays at Segerstron Hall July 11 – 23 in Costa Mesa.