Yes, that is an illusion, but as illusions go, this one’s worth buying into. Turner herself is one of the show’s producers, and one imagines the hagiography endemic to this reverential genre wasn’t the only aspect of the venture that appealed to her. It had to be the honor accorded her by a creative team having identified someone perfectly suited to the role. Warren has that extra something — the rare gene on the E! chromosome, for entertainer, maybe? — that separates a workmanlike portrayal from a great one.
Twenty-four songs make up the bulk of “Tina’s” appeal, with “Proud Mary,” “Private Dancer,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It” among them. Under Phyllida Lloyd’s direction, with an indispensable assist from choreographer Anthony Van Laast, the musical sequences give the necessary ticket-buying rationale to Turner fans and neophytes alike. A formula-driven book by Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins accompanies those other more exciting ingredients, focusing on Turner’s rejection by her mother, Zelma (Dawnn Lewis), and physical abuse at the hands of her mentor-husband, Ike (Daniel J. Watts).
You’ll sit with patient, folded hands through the dialogue scenes, which sound pretty much the way these exchanges tend to in the countless stage, television and film projects devoted to the rise and fall and rise of talented celebrities. The good people “get” Turner, and the envious or unenlightened ones don’t, and after her divorce from the vengeful Ike leaves her penniless, she is compelled to look for a way to reinvent herself. Voilá: Tina reborn is Tina triumphant.
The costumes for Warren, by Mark Thompson, particularly the sparkly minidresses with the rows of fringe in which Tina swivels and shakes, are divine. So, for that matter, is pint-size Skye Dakota Turner, who plays Tina as a girl. Like Warren, Turner displays inordinate poise, immense vocal skill and a stunning sense of her own outsize impact. This is an instance in which an artist’s gift seems apparent all through a musical timeline.
Watts’s Ike is required to strike Warren’s Tina several times throughout the show. It’s upsetting to watch and renders Ike a loathsome figure you want banished as quickly as possible. Watts’s job as a result is thankless. He’s the kind of villain you can’t portray with any relish. The always reliable Myra Lucretia Taylor plays a rather incidental part as Tina’s inspirational grandmother — another required step in the bio-musical’s how-to manual.
The story of the Temptations, being recounted nightly at the nearby jukebox show “Ain’t Too Proud,” is more telling about the nature of the music business, and so has a more engrossing narrative spine. But it doesn’t have Tina. Or rather, Adrienne.
Tina, book by Katori Hall, with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Choreography, Anthony Van Laast; sets and costumes, Mark Thompson. About 2 hours 45 minutes. $79-$179. At Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St., New York. 877-250-2929. ticketmaster.com.