The TINA TURNER Musical Reveals Trials and Triumphs

    0
    456

    By Kimberly Marsh | The Oklahoma Eagle

    According to Tulsans who knew him and the actor who plays him in the musical Tina, The Tina Turner Musical, Ike Turner may have had multiple sides to his personality. However, the Ike Turner the public has seen is a violent man.

    The arc of Tina Turner’s career is well-known. Although Ike’s story is lesser known, he had a powerful influence on Tina’s life and career. They had a family together, and he witnessed Tina rise to superstardom.

    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.

    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.

    The 1993 movie, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” portrayed the relationship between Ike and Tina Turner as abusive before their breakup. Ike was also said to victimize Tina, as she shared in a 2018 interview with Oprah Winfrey. But Deon Releford-Lee, the actor who plays Ike in the Broadway musical, says there is more to Ike’s story than is told on screen. In preparing for the part, the Broadway actor searched for the triggers that made Ike who he was known to be.

    Ike is part of the musical until the breakup and the start of Tina’s solo career in the second act. Because of the problematic themes of domestic violence, the musical is recommended for ages 14 and older.

    Naomi Rodgers performed “Proud Mary” as Tina Turner and the cast of the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

    Naomi Rodgers performed “Proud Mary” as Tina Turner and the cast of the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

    Ike Turner 

    In an interview with The Oklahoma Eagle, Releford-Lee said playing Ike Turner was a healing experience for him. While “villains” have challenging roles, Releford-Lee said it is liberating in some respects, and he embraces the challenge.

    “I have a wealth of knowledge of difficult things to play. My focus is to do as much…research as possible to figure out who this human was, what happened in his path, and what maybe led him to the places to do some of the horrible things he did. Not to excuse their behavior because it’s deplorable, right? We don’t just walk around hating people, throwing them around, forcing them, and manipulating them to do things,” Releford-Lee said. He described Ike’s aggressive behavior, especially with his wife.

    Channeling that aggressive hyper-masculine energy takes a toll but also frees Releford-Lee to be softer, more feminine, more free, and more in touch with his emotions off-stage. Having played many villains in the past, he said he learned to become “Okay with my ugliness because that ugliness is in all of us.”

    “Ike was a Black man who wrote music and was one of the fathers of Rock ‘n’ Roll but never received the credit,” Releford-Lee said. As Tina took center stage and became the superstar she was, Ike was overlooked.

    Zurin Villanueva performed as Tina Turner and Garrett Turner as Ike Turner in the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

    Zurin Villanueva performed as Tina Turner and Garrett Turner as Ike Turner in the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

    “Those are the things that I focus on to help ground me in the (character) because being rejected for being Black, being talented, being othered, is something that I can connect to.”

    Tulsa Connections 

    In an article published in June 2023 following Tina’s death, The Oklahoma Eagle Editor Gary Lee reflected on the days when the Ike and Tina Revue came to Tulsa and performed at the Big Ten Ballroom. The Ike and Tina Revue was a Big Ten headliner several times in the 1960s, and they performed together until their 1976 divorce.

    Tulsa musician and radio personality Bobby Eaton Jr. knew them both and witnessed much of what was happening around them on the road. Eaton recently held a launch party for his new band, Eaton Out.  During the performance, he recounted working with Ike and Tina Turner as the youngest guy in the band. Eaton said he appreciated Ike as a band leader, a musician/composer, and a businessman who showed him the ropes in the industry. But Eaton acknowledged that the relationship was not easy.

    “Tina was there, and a lot of fights and a lot of crazy stuff went on back in those days, but at the same, I couldn’t wait to get away because they had too much drama going on.”

    Singer Michelle Love, a/k/a Sweet Randi Love, became an Ikette in 1993 and knew him during the last decade of his life when he revived his career as a frontman. She joined the band despite being familiar with the tumultuous relationship Tina described.

    “We were more like a family unit. When it came to work, though, he was a real hard ass. I don’t want to say it like that. But you know what I mean? He was serious when it came to work. As far as that goes, he didn’t play any games because he was like, this is me on stage, and it represents me.

    “After the Tina stuff, Ike was self-conscious…about every little thing that he did because he had already gotten kind of a bad rap behind the movie. So, he was a real stickler as far as that goes,” Love said, “But when it was time for everybody to go home and we were calming down, Ike was just a big old teddy bear. Honestly, he was really. I think a lot of what he went through, you know, in the past team as well, had a lot to do with his insecurities. During the Jim Crow days, he went through quite a bit. So, there’s a lot that people don’t know about him. As far as his background story goes, I’m not trying to take away from Tina’s background story because she has a story to tell, but it might explain why he was the way he was.”

    Ike was released from prison in 1991 after serving 18 months for drug offenses. Cocaine was his drug of choice, and it flowed freely, in large quantities, around him. Ike’s drug addiction relapse in 2004 led to his drug overdose in 2007.

    Love has returned to Tulsa and continues to sing and perform with Sweet Randi Love and The Love Thang band.

    About Deon Releford-Lee 

    Releford-Lee attended Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, an HBCU. At the university, he studied dance and theater. He began working professionally when he was still not old enough to play certain roles, portraying more mature characters. Although getting attention was difficult, he worked his way from ensemble to lead roles. A move to New York City followed, leading to his current role as Ike.

    Deon Releford-Lee plays Ike Turner in the TPAC production TINA: The Tina Turner Musical.

    Releford-Lee plays Ike full-time every night but has two understudy actors for this incredibly physical and emotional role.  A self-described Bohemian, Releford-Lee’s personality is very different from Ike’s, and he is shocked when audience members have no idea who he is when the cast goes out to greet them.

    Following a night onstage, he does breathwork to unwind and get out of character, which can take about 15 minutes to exit.

    “I realized that when I’m feeling anxious, it’s mostly because physically I’m not breathing at all. I’m holding my breath, so I’m just reminding myself to breathe. I’m someone who doesn’t leave the theater right away. I just kind of sit there for a bit, take off my costume, take off my wig, put my jewelry on, put my own clothes back on, and just kind of sit and listen to music, and then move on.”

    Releford-Lee said people will learn a little more through Ike’s backstory, how the industry treated him, and why he was the way he was.

    “And in the same breath, you’re also seeing him being manipulative and hurtful. And the audience is kind of on his side in one second, and then the very next second, betrayed by him.

    “I love the moment where Tina and Ike first meet because you see them laughing, you see them enjoying each other. It’s one of the only times of fun between them. And I think that’s beautiful. I love watching Tina discover herself in the second act.”

    Celebrity Attractions describes “Tina-The Tina Turner Musical” as the inspiring journey of a woman who broke barriers and became the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. “Set to the pulse-pounding soundtrack of her most beloved hits, this electrifying sensation will send you soaring to the rafters.” Tina Turner won 12 Grammy Awards and her live shows were seen by millions, with more concert tickets sold than any other solo performer in music history. Featuring her songs, “Tina–The Tina Turner Musical” is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Katori Hall and directed by the internationally acclaimed Phyllida Lloyd.  

    The post The TINA TURNER Musical Reveals Trials and Triumphs first appeared on BlackPressUSA.