TINA – The Tina Turner Musical in Tampa

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Tina Turner at Straz Center

On opening night of “TINA – The Tina Turner Musical” in Tampa, Florida, some members of Tampa Bay Bloggers were lucky enough to be invited to attend in exchange for an online review of the show. The following is a candid opinion of TBB member Raffi Darrow, who was in attendance on January 31, 2023. 


When you see “TINA – The Tina Turner Musical” be prepared to witness a jukebox musical focused on two things – singing and feeling. 

The 2 hour and 40 minute musical production covers much of the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s life, from childhood through her ‘80s comeback, and is an emotional rollercoaster with shocking, loving, disturbing, endearing and inspiring moments. 

Tina Turner has won 12 Grammy® Awards and is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. Her live shows have been seen by millions, with more concert tickets sold than any other solo performer in music history. But these are just a few of the barriers she has broken as a woman of color in the early days of Rock n Roll. 

Tina recalls a young life on a sharecropping field picking cotton and singing in the church choir, moving around and being separated and reunited with siblings, and eventually graduating from high school in St. Louis, MO. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated that after graduation she worked as a nurse’s aide at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, which is where my children were born!)

I remember seeing Tina Turner sing on TV when I was a child in the ‘80s and my mother telling me, “She used to be part of Ike and Tina Turner, but he hit her and was mean to her, so now they are divorced and she’s just Tina Turner.” There’s no “just” when it comes to Ms. Turner. And that is an all-too-brief synopsis of much of Tina’s young adulthood and half of the Broadway musical. Although Ike Turner renamed Anna Mae Bullock as Tina Turner and helped her rise on the R&B charts, hit the Billboard Hot 100, and even get a Grammy nod – his addictions and abusive nature kept Tina penniless and fearful for over 15 years.

I did not realize how Tina paved the way for so many women – particularly Black women – through her career. She was on the 2nd cover published of “Rolling Stone” Magazine. She performed for – what was then rare – desegregated audiences in southern clubs and hotels. She opened for the Rolling Stones on tour in the UK and the US. She had top 5 hits in several countries. She was in The Who’s cult classic movie “Tommy” among others, and had numerous TV appearances – including being one of the first Black American artists to have airtime on MTV.

But after her divorce and continuous legal battering from Ike, she needed to reinvent herself to achieve superstardom. And in 1983, that’s just what she did! By 1984 she hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” She found her own success and was able to secure her own financial stability. She’s written books, been the subject of a biopic film, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and 2 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions.

Tina Turner musical

Naomi Rodgers as Tina Turner in the North American touring production of TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade, 2022.


Listing awards doesn’t get at the heart of this memorable star. This is just a fraction of Tina Turner’s many accolades. It doesn’t touch on her marriages, her motherhood, her religious beliefs, and many more fascinating facets of her life. The “Tina” musical tries to convey much of her story and her feelings through hit songs, and in the performance I saw she was deliberately and lovingly portrayed by Zurin Villanueva. Villanueva’s vocals were powerful and astonishing, and it seemed like she was singing or dancing full-out every other minute of the show with boundless energy and passion. 

And then – and then – just when we thought the singing and feeling had taken us as far as they could go, the show ended with a Tina-style rock concert! The audience was on their feet, cheering and singing right along with the performers; and I felt lucky to be witnessing the joy and hype filling the elegant space.

I only knew Tina Turner from what I heard on the radio and saw on TV incidentally because of her ‘80s stardom, but I know there were women sitting in the audience who had followed her career and her life, saved up dimes for her records, and perhaps even crossed state lines to try to get to one of her concerts. They had their cups running over at Tampa’s Straz Center – and they were easy to spot in their fringe and sequins, paying homage to the woman who may have also been a role model – a woman who could sing about real life and real love like no other. 

The Broadway touring production of “TINA – The Tina Turner Musical” is currently in Tampa at The Straz Center in Carol Morsani Hall. The show runs through February 5 and tickets start at $47.50. 

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