Tina Turner’s tumultuous, edgy life is perfect for a musical – and ten years after the singer’s last live performance, and only a year on since the star admitted she didn’t want a musical, Tina has opened in the West End with the legend’s full backing.
Tina is a woman likeable for her grit, her charm and her life story.
And all convey well in this excellent musical rendition of her life, told in the style of a jukebox musical with a narrative that feels conventional but is made first-class up by the show’s mesmerising Tina, Broadway star Adrienne Warren.
Adrienne, someone in the audience exclaims with only a smidgin of exaggeration, truly is “better than Tina.”
She appears not as Tina’s mimic but as a fully realised version of the rock ‘n’ roll icon.
Heck, by the show’s final two numbers she’s so confident the whole show has disregarded the script and descended into basically a live Tina Turner concert – you honestly wouldn’t know it wasn’t her.
Adrienne has stunningly embodied those handmade dance moves – the way Tina’s leg rhythmically jolts, and the way her body contorts when she’s singing, her wide beam and – personality-wise – her ferocious will to succeed.
Director Phyllida Lloyd presents Tina within her authentic narrative, from her upbringing in smaltown Nutbush, Tennessee to the harrowing domestic abuse she received at the hands of her then-husband, the musician Ike Turner.
You’ll leave humming all the hits, and maybe even sweating a bit come final curtain, however the intensity plunged into the music and choreography isn’t matched by the storytelling, which feels melodramatic at the key scenes of violence rather than harrowing.
Fight Director Kate Waters doesn’t capture the mood of the violence scenes properly, enlisting rather amateur and all too flippant scenes of abuse which can seem oddly timed and crass.
All but the once, during Proud Mary when Tina fights back, to some dramatic avail – and the audience love it.
The stage at the Aldwych is often left bear for Tina, and would feel too big if it weren’t for Mark Thompson’s stunning and engulfing set design, which feels like the show’s most modern element.
Complimenting Adrienne’s Tina are a very good selection of supporting actors, who lend the story weight.
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Kobna Holdbrook-Smith plays Ike Turner well. As well as an abuser, his portrayal paints Ike as a lingering nuisance whose presence has a psychopath’s tendency.
In the second act Ryan O’Donnell’s Roger Davies, Tina’s rambunctious young manager, is an enjoyably silly watch, a clever way to shoehorn the plot towards its close and give the show a second wind.
If you’re out for a contemporary musical with storytelling depth, book for Caroline, Or Change, but Tina The Musical is rock’s new gigantic hit, and it’s all thanks to Adrienne Warren, who performs as if she is Tina herself.
Tina The Musical is currently booking until February 2019 at the Aldwych Theatre