Aldwych Theatre, London
Much more than a tribute to the singer – the musical is a celebration of how her grit and determination turned adversity into triumph, doing so with plenty of powerful performances.
It is a difficult thing to do to create a musical based on a beloved real-life person and transform it into a brand new musical – particularly so when that person has had more than her fair share of adversity both in her personal life as well as her professional one as Tina Turner has.
Taking audiences through Tina’s early years, living in a home with parents both equally violent to all the way through to her making an astonishing comeback following her split from Ike Turner, Tina the Musical has certainly plenty of material to keep audiences engaged (as well as horrified in places) in Phyllida Lloyd’s respectful but energetic production.
Despite a few scenes that could perhaps use some slight editing and pauses that seem to drag out just a touch too long, the production is slick and confident from beginning to end – thanks to the supremely self-assured and commanding performances from all of the cast.
Adrienne Warren is superb as Tina herself – vocally hitting every note to perfection as heard during numbers such as ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’ for example, but also delivers a strong characterisation of Tina that is split equally between being feisty and spirited as seen when she threatens to finally leave Ike, but with moments of vulnerability as shown in the scenes involving Tina’s mother. It is this balance that makes Tina an easy and relatable character for audiences to root for from beginning to end.
But there is also an extremely powerful and mesmerising performance from Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Ike Turner. The way in which he showcases the character’s charm which masks the violent and possessive side is chilling and effective to watch – particularly in the more violent moments making the audience flinch shows just how convincing the performance is.
Elsewhere, Madeline Appiah as Zelma Bullock (Tina’s mother) really highlights the complicated nature of Tina and Zelma’s relationship. Her scornful disdain at her daughter’s career and choices but then getting defensive and protective over her is brought to a head in a touching and raw scene taking place at the hospital.
Meanwhile, these performances are enhanced thanks to Katori Hall’s thoughtfully written book. Sharply paced it covers all of the key elements of Tina’s life and moves through time with great ease, with the songs effectively placed within the story to add context. It is a dark and menacing story but ultimately, Hall also manages to keep the tone hopeful and inspirational – even during the darkest moments in the show.
Taking the show up a further notch is the fast and electrifying choreography by Anthony Van Laast that offers the audience some truly uplifting moments and a break from the tension. Particular highlights are the routines to ‘What’s Love Got to Do With it’ ‘Disco Inferno’ and ‘River Deep Mountain High’.
Everything about Lloyd’s production looks classy thanks to Mark Thompson’s gorgeous costume designs and impressive set design – which are enhanced by Jeff Sugg’s projections. It looks impressive from beginning to end.
Overall, Tina is an electrifying addition to the West End and is well worth a trip to the Aldwych Theatre.