London Theatre Review: Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre
| By Harrison Fuller
With a Jukebox musical about a global star like Tina Turner, the ending isn’t important. Neither are some of the conflicts along the way. The interest comes, not from wondering what will happen (we know she succeeds in becoming an icon of the music world) but how it happened.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical takes right from her formative days and the breakdown of her family caused by her violent father. We see her discover her voice, begin to find herself before encountering Ike Turner. It is a story that is known but the depth and scale of Ike’s emotional and physical abuse comes as a surprise, especially how quickly it began after they first met. Forced to surrender her identity, her liberty and her freedom, she became his showpiece, exploited to further his career.
Even after she found the courage to leave, he pursued her, like a dog with a bone, with litigation forcing her to sing in Vegas by night after cleaning toilets in the day, just to earn enough money. Wearing her down, a chance meeting with a record producer brought her to London but, she was still facing resistance, this time from the misogynistic and racist views of the music industry. With tenacity and good word from David Bowie, she finally got her break and became Tina as we know her today.
Quite the tale and full of opportunities for drama. While the big box musical format does work, some of the drama is lost among the fluff of musical theatre. Perhaps a format similar to that of Lady Day at Emmerson Bar and Grill or Girl from the North Country may have been able to heighten the dramatic moments.
Tina’s soundtrack does, however, provide a perfect musical score. Full of soul, catchy tunes and energy, the music rocks the Aldwych Theatre which leaves audiences on their feet and singing along to her metaphorical disco hit and karaoke favourite, Simply the Best.
The whole company are outstanding but special mention has to go to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who has the unenviable task of portraying Ike, attracting boos at the curtain call. Adrienne Warren steals the show as Tina. Perfectly cast, Warren has the look, voice and moves to give a great image of Tina on stage, as well as handling the softer, more nuanced moments with great skill and craft.
Overall, the show is a good fun night in the theatre, made so by the soundtrack if not the subject matter and is sure to be a hit with Tina fans for a long time to come.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is currently booking at the Aldwych Theatre through 21 December. Book your Tina tickets here now!