Monday, January 31, 2022

Weekly Margin 2022, W6: Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Skeleton Crew, H.M.S. Pinafore

What: The Broadway transfer of the West End biomusical about Tina Turner.
And? Honestly, I think this show has been deeply injured by its director (whose work with Shakespeare I love, for the record). I know Phyllida Lloyd's got Mamma Mia! on her CV (which, for the record, I never saw onstage) but I just kept being struck by how inapt everything in the staging of Tina was, as if the director had never worked on a musical before. So frequently a song ends with the ensemble walking onstage to stand still and watching behind its protagonist, and most of the time I can't figure out why. So many book scenes are inertly staged, with actors blatantly walking forward to hit their marks, say their lines, and then move to their next mark. The scenic design is about as unimaginative as you can get. And the fight choreo is consistently, embarrassingly bad.

But. But. Underneath this mediocre interpretation, I think the book by Katori Hall and Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins has some merit. There are for sure some dropped threads, some unexplained beats, but in the hands of a capable production, that could be worked on. And the voices are uniformly excellent (particularly Skye Dakota Turner as Young Anna-Mae).

And. And. Nkeki Obi-Melekwe is extraordinary as Tina. Her vocals are roof-lifting, her physicality is perfect, her acting is a poetic balance of strength and vulnerability, and there's a glow that emanates from her whenever she smiles. If nothing else, I hope she has a long and fulfilling career, because she deserves it, and so do we.

Nkeki Ob-Melekwi as Tina. Photo by Jenny Anderson.

1/28/22: Skeleton Crew
What: MTC produces Dominique Morisseau's new play about what's left of a the workers at a small stamping factory in Detroit under the looming threat of shutting down permanently, and the choices its survivors must make about their future.
And? I loved it. The play keeps surprising with new directions, new deepenings, and new heartaches. Everyone is flawed, everyone is trying, everyone has shames and prides and hope to be a better version of themselves. And for a play that, in 2008, is one more heartbreak in a terrible economic recession, it still manages to find the hope and joy. Morisseau is a special talent with a strong voice.

Joshua Boone and and Chante Adams as Dez and Shanita.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.

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