It’s not that young kids wouldn’t groove to the timeless and powerfully voiced songs in this dazzling, high-energy production, playing at The Paramount through September 17.
There are just a whole lot of mature themes and situations in this review of the musical legend’s life. Domestic violence, infidelity, drug abuse, more violence, racism, and ageism are all here aplenty. And not just in the story.
It would be a lot to unpack for a child or tween or a even a young teen. Too much.
Teen or parent date night
My vote for parents would be to save this feisty, inspiring depiction of Turner’s rough road to superstardom for date night. Still l, if you’ve been pumping “Proud Mary,” “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero” since the kids were in utero (as my husband and I did) the producers suggest for age 14 and older as the right age. This real life-sized production could spark an important conversation starter with your 16-year-old about the warning signs of domestic violence.
Either way — as a night out or a date with your teen — the show, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Katori Hall and directed by the internationally acclaimed Phyllida Lloyd, packs a boxing match-worth of musical punch. Moreover, it’s a beautiful representation of the power of determination, resiliency, and hope.
Ayvah Johnson as ‘Young Anna-Mae’ and the cast of the North American touring production of TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade, 2022
In a nutshell
The future Queen of Rock n’ Roll grew up in the 1950s as Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee. A witness to domestic violence between her parents, she eventually goes to live with her grandmother. Her grandmother believes in her powerful voice and encourages her to seek her musical fortune. Ultimately, that road leads to Kings of Rhythm band leader Ike Turner, who gives her the stage name she will carry for the rest of her life. But, like Anna Mae’s father, Tina Turner’s Ike is violent. Their rocky relationship leads to multiple infidelities, physical abuse, a fateful meeting with record producer Phil Spectre, jealousies, a musical split, and eventually divorce.
From there, the story moves into the difficulties of Turner’s life as a single mother, the racism and ageism she faces as she fights to rebuild her career, her frustration with being puppeted by men in her life, her rising self-actualization, and her eventual career-catapulting decision to sign a record deal on her own terms. The rest, as they say, is history.
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Naomi Rodgers performing ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It as ‘Tina Turner’ in the North American touring production of TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade, 2022.
Reasons to go
“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” is vibrant, fiery and foot-stompingly good. The award goes to Ari Groover in the role of Tina Turner on the night we attended; her’s was a truly stunning performance. For the whole second half I was sure it was the actual Tina on the stage. Groover is a legend in her own right. That alone is reason enough to check out the show.
It also offers parents over 40 — folks who actually grew up with Turner’s music — an entertaining trip down the memory lane of their young adult years. If that’s you, the show is a chance to share a part of yourself with your teens.
And then there’s this:
Tina Turner is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time, and there’s a reason for that. She was a musical pioneer and status-quo fighter. Her music is riveting, and it makes this show about the 12-time Grammy-winning artist equally riveting. Turner’s come-back story promises anything is possible and that even the most challenging odds can be beaten. In an age of such uncertainty, that message feels vitally important.
“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” plays at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre from September 12 to 17. Tickets start at $40. The theater discourages bringing children under age 4 to most performances.
Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.