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Tina: The Tina Turner Musical @ Segerstrom Center for the Arts – Review

photo credit: Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Written by Patrick Chavis

A biographical play is a dramatic play that focuses on real people’s lives, often a well-known or famous person, and attempts to tell a part or a full telling of their life story. Watching biographical narratives, unlike with books, an audience member gets to, at least for a moment, visually experience what life was like for these icons that can often seem larger than life. Tina Turner was one of these people. Playing now at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is a heart-wrenching story of perseverance, a celebration of great music, and the genuine pain and aftereffects of racial bigotry.


Before she was Tina, we follow a young Anna-Mae as she navigates her life growing up in a poor African American family in 1950s Tennessee. We see her successes, failures, and some of the deep struggles she endured throughout her life.

Tina Turner is one of those icons. Whether you consciously seek out her music or not, she had a profound effect on the music of the time with her incredible voice and foresight to bridge musical genres and make them work for her. Her contribution to music lives on to this day in the other artists she inspired. Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar, and Kees Prins have written a compelling script that, at its best, makes the spoken and dramatic moments just as interesting as the musical sections. The play has a great balance of high and low points, and thematically, the structure of this play has a good, unforced progression. It’s not a short play by any means, but many of the good ones don’t feel too long. If anything, you’re thinking, I can’t believe it’s over.


Phyllida Lloyd’s direction is felt in this well-paced and energetic play. It’s at times, an incredibly raw telling of the famed Queen of Rock. The video projection choices from Jeff Suggs are tasteful, besides some of the more practical structures that zoom in and out of the stage. Suggs’ artistic video projections are a huge part of telling this story and are beautifully rendered.


When the show is a biographic play, then almost by definition, your lead needs to be strong, or it will fall apart. On my night, Zurin Villanueva played the Tina part, and it’s a performance not to be missed. She has a presence and a voice that makes you want to move.

Ayvah Johnson’s performance as young Tina Turner was astonishing.


This musical has a good selection of soulful, bluesy, & spiritual songs, and the music complements the overall story. This production has a short run from July 11 – 23.

Note: may not be appropriate for children because of stage violence and offensive words.

8.8 Overall
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Set & Design8.5
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Great Show! OCR Recommended! July 11 – 23, 2023.

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