top left - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Ike Turner), bottom left/right - Adrienne Warren as Tina Turner. Photo by Manuel Harlan
Written by Katori Hall, Tina the Musical tells the story of music legend, Tina Turner born Anna Mae Bullock and her journey to stardom.
Adrienne Warren gives the performance of her life and is formidable both in voice and in embodiment of the role
Over the past three years, Tina has been heavily involved in the development of the musical adaptation of her life and generous with her time in ensuring the story of her life that we see depicted on stage, is true.
The production begins in Nutbush, Tennessee by taking the audience to church. It’s clear that Tina’s singing abilities were present from an early age. Tina’s parents break up and her mum Zelma, played by Madeline Appiah makes the harsh decision to take her sister Alline, played by Aisha Jawando but not Tina, who then lives with her grandmother, GG, played by Lorna Gayle, until she sends her to live with her mum and sister. Her sister takes her under her wing introducing her to a better wardrobe, better hairstyles, a social life, and boys. It’s on a night out with her sister and friends that she is able to use her amazing singing ability to wow local heartthrob and musician, Ike Turner.
Adrienne Warren gives the performance of her life and is formidable both in voice and in embodiment of the role – her singing is incredible, her acting ability is on point and you can see she’s undergone a full transformation to portray much loved icon, Tina Turner. Anthony Van Laast’s fantastic choreography of course contributes largely to this, too as no one can deny Tina Turner’s magnificent legs and dance moves.
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith plays Ike Turner; again we see another full transformation and who knew he had such dulcet tones within him? He plays his part with ease and it’s impossible for the audience to warm to him at all such is the credibility of his acting. In particular his depiction of Ike the abuser, adulterer, control freak and drug addict was uncomfortable viewing and he seemed to get uglier as the production progressed.
l-r Hannah Jay-Allan, Adrienne Warren, Perola Congo and Sia Kiwa (Tina and the Ikettes). Photo by Manuel Harlan
The charisma between Adrienne Warren and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith makes for a believable on-stage portrayal of Ike and Tina’s tumultuous relationship.
The abuse Tina suffered at the hands of her husband, Ike have been well documented. So although I was not shocked, it was harrowing to see this horrendous aspect of Tina’s relationship with Ike, on stage. It wasn’t just physical - the financial and emotional abuse started almost immediately from the early days of when Ike persuaded Tina’s mum to let her go and tour with him. He would often belittle her, shame her and shout her down to basically put her in her place to ensure she never stepped out of line.
TINA THE MUSICAL has all the ingredients to make it a long-standing West End show
Whether they were in company, recording, or Tina was pregnant, or even in front of their children, nothing was a deterrent in stopping Ike battering his forever-loyal wife. He was relentless in his abuse. The years rolled into double figures before Tina left Ike, the catalyst being when he turned his hand to beating their children too. Leaving Ike meant Tina was at rock bottom – no money, no right to legally sing the songs she’d built a name singing all these years, everything was linked to and owned by Ike – even her name. She had no choice but to start a fresh and go solo but she insisted on keeping her name.
Ike rarely paid Tina when they were together so when she left him, she was broke. However, we are reminded that despite her hardships, Tina has given us hit after hit. This slick production with Mark Thompson’s impressive set and fabulous costume designs with a stellar cast, takes us back in time and keeps our toes tapping.
l-r Adrienne Warren (Tina Turner) and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Ike Turner). Photo by Manuel Harlan
Tina gave up drugs, found Buddhism and built up her own catalogue of music and found her own identity to overcome enough adversity that most people would sink if faced with similar trials. Tina has an enviable spirit and was a fighter though and held on to her belief and made the decision to come to Europe to reinvigorate her career, a decision she will never look back on. It was the catalyst to Tina becoming the queen of rock n roll and meeting husband, Erwin Bach.
It’s such a treat hearing songs such as WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT; RIVER DEEP, MOUNTAIN HIGH; PRIVATE DANCER (there are so many more) sung so phenomenally by Adrienne Warren. By the end of the show though, I guarantee you’ll be out your seat and belting out those tracks.
TINA THE MUSICAL has all the ingredients to make it a long-standing West End show. And, with a fresh batch of tickets released and booking extended until February 2019, what are you waiting for?