Commentary: The Tina Turner musical takes on new resonance after the powerhouse performer’s death

Naomi Rodgers portrays Tina Turner onstage, singing into a microphone and showing off her legs.
Naomi Rodgers as Tina Turner in “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre a month after the Queen of Rock died.
(Matthew Murphy)
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Reverence for Tina Turner electrified the Hollywood Pantages Theatre during Wednesday night’s opening of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” which landed in L.A. a month after the Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll died at home in Switzerland at the age of 83.

It’s one thing to watch a bio-jukebox musical about a star who has long been gone but quite another to sit in the audience for a show about a legend who passed during the first year of her eponymous show’s inaugural North American tour. The audience arrived ready for a welcome release from the sorrow they’d felt since Turner’s death. Handkerchiefs were at the ready, murmurs of praise abundant and the applause roaring.

For the record:

5:37 p.m. June 16, 2023Tina Turner died during the first year of the show’s tour, not near its tail end as originally stated. Star Naomi Rodgers shares the musical’s lead role with Zurin Villanueva.

The Playbill program cover for the show has been modified to feature a portrait of Turner with her birth and death dates printed below; there are guest books in the lobby for fans to write tributes in; and at the end of the show on opening night, the cast gathered onstage to pay tribute to their hero.


Grammy-winning Tina Turner was a rock ’n’ roll original with her high-octane, powerful yet soulful voice and iconic hairstyles.

May 24, 2023

“We look to one another and each of you to share the love, the respect and the kindness that she shared with us,” said Roz White, who plays Tina’s mother, Zelma Bullock, in the musical. “We celebrate this remarkable woman and artist. Tina was deeply involved in the crafting of this musical. And we dedicate our opening night performance here in L.A. and every performance to her memory. She would no doubt be proud that we are sharing every ounce of the joy, the artistry, the energy that she shared with us.”

Turner was a giant of American music, with a voice that could move mountains and a career that spanned decades. Her story of childhood neglect and trauma, which gave way to early fame as part of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, then led to an abusive marriage and a precipitous fall from the limelight, is as dramatically gripping as her life’s subsequent second act.

After nearly a decade in relative obscurity, at 44 Turner came roaring back on her own terms — a comeback that cemented her status as one of the world’s greatest rock stars. She also found love with an adoring second husband, German music executive Erwin Bach.

Turner and Bach are listed as executive producers of the show, and a quote from Turner about her excitement over the North American tour is still featured on the press release for what is the the sixth production of the show around the world since it premiered in London’s West End in 2018.

As she put it night after night singing ‘Proud Mary’: ‘I never lost one minute of sleeping worrying about the way that things might have been.’

May 24, 2023

Notably, it is the first production for which Turner will no longer be able to sit in the audience.

Turner’s spirit is within Naomi Rodgers, who embodies Turner with a reverence as abundant as her vocal gifts and gravity-defying leg kicks. (Rodgers performs in half of the week’s shows, sharing the role with Zurin Villanueva.) Rodgers is a fitting successor to Adrienne Warren, who in 2020 won a Tony Award for performance by a leading actress in a musical when the show — written by Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, and directed by Phyllida Lloyd — landed on Broadway.


“Sing like you are singing to the god inside yourself,” Phil Spector (Geoffrey Kidwell) says to Turner in the first act of the show. Turner says she knows just how to do that, and it’s easy to believe that she is a kind of god. Certain artists’ gifts are so great that they seem touched by the divine. Mere mortals can only wonder what it might feel like to belt out one’s emotions with a voice like Turner’s.

In this way, the show welcomes reflection on the nature of genius — how it doesn’t always arrive in a neat package, and rarely serves up a happy ending. Many of the musical geniuses of the 20th century are dying. In the last decade alone we have lost Aretha Franklin, Tom Petty, Chuck Berry, Prince, David Bowie, B.B. King, Leonard Cohen and Burt Bacharach, to name only a few.

Here are a few of the photos illustrating Tina Turner’s long stint in the spotlight.

May 24, 2023

These musicians represent a moment in time for music that will never come around again — a singular ripple in the space-time continuum of history. As with members of the Greatest Generation who fought in WWII and are no longer around to tell their stories, we will soon reach an era where almost no one remains who can remember what it felt like to watch Billie Holiday in concert, or to see Elvis wiggle his pelvis for the first time on national TV.

For this reason, the “Tina” musical resonates differently in the wake of the icon’s death. What was once a highly enjoyable show — light on storytelling but heavy on musical thrills — is now a symbol of all that we are losing as rock ’n’ roll inevitably shifts from a groundbreaking form of revolution into formulaic complacency.

Turner represented many things to many people, and love for her — and music’s ineffable soul — had everything to do with it.

'‘Tina: The Tina Turner Musical"

Where: Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd.

When: 8 p.m.Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends July 9.

Tickets:  $49-$179 (subject to change)

Info:  (323) 468-1700 or

Running time:  2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m.Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. July 11- July 23.

Tickets:  $29-$119 (subject to change)

Info:  (714) 556-2787 or

Running time:  2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission

VIDEO | 06:55
LA Times Today: The Tina Turner musical takes on new resonance after the powerhouse performer’s death

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