‘Tina – The Tina Turner Musical’ review
Time Out says
The tunes are great and Adrienne Warren is magnificent, but domestic abuse and jukebox musical are a weird fit
Where ‘Tina’ undoubtedly succeeds is in the casting of its lead. Broadway performer Adrienne Warren is virtually unknown over here, but it’s instantly apparent why she was tapped up for this. She doesn’t so much imitate Turner as channel her: her technically dazzling but achingly world-weary gale of a voice feels like it should be coming out of a woman decades, if not centuries, older. And while Warren doesn’t really look anything like Turner, she perfectly captures that leggy, rangy, in-charge physicality. From a musical standpoint, she virtually carries the show, singing nigh-on every song and even giving us an encore at the end.
Almost as good is heavyweight Brit actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who brings a demonic charisma to the role of Ike Turner. Tina’s abusive bandleader and husband is monstrous in his self-pitying, manipulative rage, but it’s not hard to see the appeal of his raw wit and powerful sense of certainty. It is a deadly serious performance.
But the talented creative team of director Lloyd and writer Katori Hall never really crack the correct way to use their leads.
At its absolute best, the first half of ‘Tina’ conveys the sickening lurch of the ’60s spinning out of control, all twitchy druggy dancing and wailed vocals under Jeff Sugg’s queasily churning projections. Needless to say, this doesn’t necessarily sit that well with the idea of having a jolly good singalong to Tina’s hits. Hall’s book is not exactly gratuitously grim, and certainly avoids painting its subject as a helpless victim. We know she’s strong. But there’s no getting away from the fact that ‘Tina’ contains upsetting scenes of spousal violence, not to mention a fair amount of swearing and frequent use of the N-word. It certainly feels complicated telling this story via the medium of showstopping musical numbers, and it’s difficult to exactly enjoy it, even though we’re clearly being invited to do so.
The second, post-Ike half is less problematic and essentially details Tina’s efforts to drag herself out of her wilderness years and become a bona-fide solo superstar. It has a much less compelling story than the first half, though, and there’s perhaps something a liiiiittle awkward about the way in which the story is pushed along by a couple of white saviour figures (a record label wonk and an affable German boyfriend) who descend from the gods to drag Tina out of the doldrums.
Lloyd directs fluidly and at a pace, but there is, also, a weird feeling of it being clogged with ephemera. Do we need interludes about Tina’s Buddhism? A load of stuff on her not-very-interesting new boyf? A studio scene featuring Heaven 17? Her cover of Iggy Pop’s ‘Tonight’? I can’t help but wonder if one price of the real Turner’s involvement in the show was incorporating elements of her life that feel more important to her than us.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s an entertaining night, brilliantly performed. By the time Warren busts out ‘The Best’ and reprises of ‘Nutbush City Limits’ and ‘Proud Mary’ for the mini-concert at the end, the roof is suitably blown off.
But the inevitable closing euphoria doesn’t feel like it vindicates the queasy journey. Turner was, apparently, not greatly in favour of the project but decided to lend her support on the grounds that it was going to happen anyway. I’d say her ambivalence was justified.
|Venue name:||Aldwych Theatre|
|Transport:||Tube: Covent Garden/Holborn; Rail/Tube: Charing Cross|
|Price:||£10-£129.50. Runs 2hr 45min|
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Adrienne Warren is quite simply sensational. Her charisma lights up the stage & you can’t take your eyes off her. This is no Tina Turner impersonator. I suspect this is the closest I will ever come to appreciating the legendary Ms Turner in a live performance. Obviously the music is fantastic & the incredible true life story is shocking, tragic & ultimately inspirational. This quite rightly is one of the hottest tickets in the west end
This was a Birthday Gift, the Production was very good. However the theater staff both outside/inside are very abrupt and herd you around like cattle. There is a huge climb to Grand Circle and , when we got to our seat to find a very cramped seating A26, A27 even Ryanair wouldn't sell these seats, and they would book the toilet if they could, it is not built for a six foot frame, who has hip knee and ankle disability.
Then 25 min into the production, I was interrupted by an abrupt female usher with 9 yes nine late arrivals all sitting in the A row in the middle, but like any person you all have to stand up upset the 10-15 people in the row. Also spoil the view and enjoyment of the performance of 20-30 people behind you. None of these arrogant customers said sorry, the staff should have told them they cant sit down until the break! If people cant be bothered to get to the theater on time they should watch from the sidelines until the break!! Not disturb the entire Theater and performance for others just because they have a few bux, and tip the ushers along the way!
So we let them all in and the last person slipped the woman usher £20 whish she quickly slipped into her pocket, as she did, she said to me, can you knot put a small bag of minstrels on the soft cushion in front of me, I have just got up because you asked me to get up, upset my enjoyment of the performance and now you want to try telling me off for putting my sweets down in front of me when I got up to let the ungrateful group of 9 people in??? REALLY
Left a sour taste in my mouth!!! Totally arrogant ushers cramped seating, painful climb, Great performance though, pity the staff there let the whole thing down, that with the very cramped seating for a 6 ft Man!