Raw emotions and healing on Broadway – The Tina Turner musical New York – a personal review

The beautiful Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York. Photo by Barbara Bullock November 2019

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical on Broadway

A personal review by Barbara Bullock, M.F.A., spiritual writer

Raw emotions and healing on Broadway

From obstacles to opportunities

After having seen Tina – The Tina Turner Musical in London and Hamburg, Germany, there was no doubt in my mind that this show had to make it all the way to Broadway. Before it was known and announced that Adrienne Warren would be back home performing on Broadway, I saw her already there. Not physically of course but in a kind of vision. Adrienne Warren is a star and I was so excited to learn that she would play Anna Mae/Tina on Broadway. I also knew that her artistry and talent would grow even more and so they did. If you have not seen Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, I highly recommend seeing it.

As so often in my life, many obstacles presented themselves before I could make this dream of mine come true. Securing tickets, getting off from work, planning the trip, and traveling overseas – not always my favorite thing to do – was stressful but so worth it. Here is my story of the opening night on November 7, 2019, and more on Broadway. I had always thought that seeing Tina the musical on Broadway would be very special. Once it was announced that tickets would go on sale, I knew they would sell fast. I took the day off from work to be sure I would be undisturbed when tickets would go on sale. Suddenly, I realized that specific special pre-sale tickets had gone on sale already, and somehow, I had missed this. Nervously, I waited until lunch break one day at work when I finally could rush outdoors, find a bench at a nearby park and secure some tickets. After work I would rush home as fast as I could and purchase some more. My plan was to go see the show on November 8 and 9, the two days after the premiere. Then I thought, what about the premiere itself? That was another emotional roller coaster ride, I must tell you. After months of waiting and more obstacles, I had started to give up on it, when my destiny did make it happen that, yes, indeed, I could attend the premiere too.

The most personal project ever

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical is not just a tribute to one of the most successful artists of all time. To me it is the very personal story of little Anna Mae with a heart of gold filled with dreams, her childhood and adolescence, her adversities, obstacles, and pain and how she, through her God-given talents, audacity, faith, hope, and love not just survives but literally thrives. Last but not least, it is also a praise of all people in her life who saw the real Anna Mae and her immense potential when others looked away. An invisible thread of faith and love becomes evident when we see and hear Adrienne Warren, playing and portraying Tina Turner in her famous stage clothes and wig, sitting on the floor chanting. The star becomes human, a personality becomes a person, and the story of little Anna Mae from Nutbush, Tennessee, USA begins. This thread of faith, love and the connection to the past and to little Anna Mae, no matter how successful she may become, is seen throughout the musical as the celebrity standing in front of her grandmother GG and her own inner child, little Anna Mae standing on a tree. Certainly, one of my favorite scenes in the musical as I love such references to the past which give me a glimpse of Anna Mae’s life before she became famous. No matter how far we make it in life, I believe that we are all the result of everything that happened in the past and every single person we have met and every action they and we have done.

Many people were and still are very significant and influential in Anna Mae Bullock’s and Tina Turner’s life. Many are portrayed in the musical by actors and actresses, who with talent, charm, and a bit of humor, fulfill these roles perfectly. I absolutely love Mars Rucker as Tina’s sister Alline Bullock, the big sister always by her side. Mars incorporates a sense of humor which makes many scenes very funny. To me, Mars’ deep voice captures Alline’s perfectly. I love her in this role! Dawnn Lewis totally convinces as Zelma Bullock, Myra Lucretia Taylor as GG, Charlie Franklin as Roger Davies, David Jennings as Richard Bullock and of course Daniel J. Watts as an incredible Ike! And Sky Dakota Turner – young Anna Mae – blows away the entire audience. She is little Anna Mae personified and a young Broadway star already.

The difficult times

Some of the scenes have changed from London and Hamburg. We see a hotel scene in the South of the U.S. where it becomes obvious that staying at a hotel that had vacancy was no option for African Americans. The audition scene when Anna Mae sings at club Manhattan for the first time also has changed. I really like the changes because they allow the audience to dig deeper into the matters that Ike and Tina Turner faced during these times. As at previous shows in London and Hamburg, I always have to look away during some of the cruelest scenes trying and succeeding at beating Adrienne Warren as Anna Mae to the floor. At times, I even wished he would stop as I could no longer watch. That’s how real it gets and how amazingly gifted actors and actresses we see. But this is not just an act. Adrienne Warren who so convincingly plays her part that Anna Mae becomes real within her. Adrienne Warren Adrienne Warren is the next generation of performance. Many young artists were inspired exactly by such success stories as Tina Turner’s. May Adrienne’s success continue to catapult her into the heights she imagines for her career just as little Anna Mae in the cotton fields of Tennessee once dreamed her dreams of being a star. I see a bright inner light on Adrienne’s face just as Anna Mae has an inner light that shines brightly on the outside. Adrienne is so likable beautiful, her smile warm and bright. Incredibly talented herself and, with this performance, has made another step up high in her career. I feel that Adrienne has grown even deeper into the role of Anna Mae/Tina. She literally embodies Anna Mae’s persona. I believe that Tina and the entire production team has found the perfect match to showcase the true spirit of Tina. I believe that Tina found her and that Adrienne found her inner Tina Turner. Adrienne is beautiful, charming and extremely talented. I have always liked her already in London and have grown very fond of her on Broadway. I believe she has grown tremendously – in terms of artistry and talent and is just a beautiful person to watch up close. Adrienne is so lovable that I almost cry when I see her hurt (Makeup obviously but still looking very realistic) in the escape scene. Her acting is so real that I almost think that she got hurt in real life. It makes me want to hug her! It is so good to see her on Broadway!

The premiere

The Broadway show is played at the beautiful Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The marquee is beautiful beyond words. I could not wait upon my arrival in New York to run over to the theater just to already see it outside and take in the atmosphere. It stands bright and proud on 46th street and it is breathtaking when you are in front of it. My heart started pumping and I knew that this is really a special place here. This theater would tell the story of Anna Mae from Nutbush and take it even higher. If you have read my previous reviews, you probably know how emotional watching the Tina Musical makes me every time. Previously I had shed quite a few tears throughout the musical. Seeing Anna Mae/Tina and Adrienne hug, warmed my heart. I think that Adrienne gave her best performance ever. The pressure to perform was certainly on with all the celebrities in the house. However, I felt that probably it was the real Anna Mae/Tina that inspired Adrienne to perform at her utmost best. This time at the musical, I felt stronger, healed. I believe it was because the real Anna Mae/Tina had come to see the show as well and give a speech on stage after the show. This time, the real Anna Mae/Tina had indeed turned poison into medicine – once and for all and for everyone.

Opening night was a surreal celebration of the most incredible life story I know. The sparkling golden dress made Anna Mae/Tina look immensely beautiful. Hearing Anna Mae’s voice giving a speech and seeing her on Broadway was soothing, healing. It was a night I will never forget. Anna Mae/Tina, Erwin Bach, Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, and more within reach, real, enjoying and celebrating the most amazing life story ever. I am so happy to know that Anna Mae/Tina could attend so we could all celebrate this amazing moment in her life and career together. From Nutbush to Broadway. It wasn’t easy but you made it, Anna Mae! You are a true, rare diamond in our world in every way.

The show goes on

The two evenings following the premiere were amazing too. The first night after the premiere I really enjoyed the show but I have to admit that I felt a bit sad. The real Anna Mae did not attend this performance, and I could feel that missing energy in the room. This time I got seats closer to Adrienne Warren. I got chills from her amazing singing voice. Adrienne channels both – Anna Mae and Tina. In my opinion, Adrienne’s singing voice gives me chills and no, it is not due to the theater being cold one night. On another night the theater was perfectly warm and I still got chills. I have also grown so fond of Adrienne as a person as she is so likable. Like as for the real Anna Mae, the violent scenes really got me this time. It makes me want to hug Adrienne similar to the real Anna Mae to tell her that everything would be all right. That is how amazing Adrienne Warren is.

Meeting the cast

I learned that you could wait by the stage door after the show to see cast members leaving. I did not know what to expect in terms of how close one would indeed get to them. I had connected with some of the cast members including David Jennings who plays Anna Mae and Alline’s father Richard. I had brought Swiss chocolate for the cast as a little present from Switzerland and David kindly took it in backstage. I thought that this cast deserves and probably needs a lot of chocolate to get through the performances every single day and night. Only performers know how hard it is to do something like this every day regardless of how one feels. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to talk to, take pictures and sign hundreds and more autographs. I am not an autograph hunter; rather, I prefer an opportunity to say thank you. The Broadway cast is incredible. They really bring Anna Mae’s family and friends alive. On one of the evenings, I got the chance to talk to some of the cast members outside of the theater and I feel like I just talked to Zelma, Richard, young Craig, young Alline, young Anna Mae. Last but not least, Anna Mae/Tina and Erwin, portrayed by Adrienne Warren and Ross Lekites. Adrienne, what an honor to meet you in person. Ross, by the way, even looks like Erwin a bit I thought and makes him indeed a fantastic Erwin! I told him what a lifesaver he is.

Meeting Phyllida Lloyd

Both in London and on Broadway, I kept seeing Phyllida Lloyd shortly before the show walking by the theater and passing by close to me. I believe in signs of the universe hinting at a future event, synchronicity or fate. On one evening on Broadway, I understood this particular sign. As I waited in line to purchase souvenirs from the merchandise kiosk, I suddenly saw Phyllida Lloyd standing there checking it and talking to someone. I was amazed to see her there and really felt in my heart that I wished I had the opportunity to thank her. It was almost my time to purchase something and I almost decided to get out of the line as I was afraid, I would miss her. Quite honestly, I also did not know how she would react and whether it was even appropriate for me to just speak with her. It turns out that the universe was on my side that evening. I was done in time, could walk over to Phyllida Lloyd and slowly but confidently, approached her. I introduced myself and poured my heart out about what a fantastic production this musical is and what a pleasure it is to see her. She seemed pleased to meet and was really very kind. I feel so honored to have had the chance to say thank you to an amazing director. I still remember seeing her video when she traveled to Switzerland to learn more about how to best tell this amazing life story not knowing yet how to best tell it. I say thank you, Phyllida Lloyd, you have done a phenomenal job and this life story could indeed not be told any better.

Feeling empowered

I will be coming back again and again to see this amazing musical. I can only say I am completely hooked. I even passed another theater and almost caught myself telling the people waiting to enter that they are at the wrong theater! As I leave the theater, I leave empowered. As I go home, I want to take care of my own life and do everything I can to improve it further setting goals and going after my dreams. I want to take care of myself and others. This musical is so much more than a life story. It is a celebration of love. Without love life is empty, meaningless. However, if you have the right people in your life that love and support you and, most of all if you love yourself enough to believe in yourself no matter what happens, and if you keep going no matter what life throws at you, you will make it. Like Anna Mae did. I leave the theater changed. Loved. Loving. A better person. Empowered. Ready to go on.

Thank you, Tina The Tina Turner Musical on Broadway, thank you cast, thank you, Adrienne, thank you, Anna Mae. Broadway cast, I will miss you as I return to Europe. I’ll see you again. To the entire production team, I bow and say thank you for the best musical ever. I am not going to any other, and that’s a promise.

Dear Anna Mae, I could not be prouder to see your story being told on Broadway. Telling your story with this musical means so much to so many and I truly hope that future generations worldwide can at least catch a glimpse of the amazing Anna Mae from Nutbush, Tennessee, USA and what can emerge out of a little girl and her heart filled with dreams, audacity, and love. Thank you, Anna Mae, for being you. I love you. It was so good to see you in New York. Your warm and loving aura heals me every time and makes me feel home when we see each other. Indeed, you turn poison into medicine.

Love, Barbara

Barbara Bullock Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Bullock, M.F.A., spiritual writer Have you been inspired today? Barbarabullock.wordpress.com Work cited: Tina – The Tina Turner Musical – Tina Broadway Director: Phyllida Lloyd, Venue: Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, Choreographer: Anthony Van Laast, Music director: Thomas Kelly, Producers: Tina Turner and Erwin Bach, Joop van den Ende, Stage Entertainment https://tinaonbroadway.com/ #music #musical #story #tina #tinaturner #mytina #tinaturnermusical #tinabroadway #Tennessee #Nutbush #show #strength #audacity #hope #love #TINATheMusical #myTINA #newyork