Tina: The Tina Turner Musical – theatre review

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical takes audiences on an emotional rollercoaster, showcasing the extreme ups and even more extreme downs of her legendary career. She was in the music industry for many decades, from her glory Ike and Tina Turner days in the 1960s and ‘70s (at least performance-wise) to her being a ‘has been’ in her 40s after leaving Ike, then her triumphant rebirth with the trademark punky wig in the 1980s.

Images: Daniel Boud

Before and after the interval is almost like two different musicals. Anyone who knows at least some of Turner’s life will be expecting scenes of violence from her abusive husband and musical partner, Ike Turner, but you do have to be prepared that it’s regular and pretty graphic.

Then after the singing star finally gets the courage to kick her abuser to the kerb at the end of Act One, there’s welcome relief from those grittier aspects. Things culminate in a blow-the-roof-off finale as Ruva Ngwenya as the superstar sings three songs with a backing band, singers and dancers, getting the audience on their feet to dance along. It’s exhilarating.

Ngwenya is the backbone of the musical, of course. She’s on stage just about all the time, and her voice is so effortlessly powerful and emotional that you just get taken along with her as she sings her heart out. She’s got the Tina moves too, and stage charisma to burn.

In the rather thankless role of Ike is Giovanni Adams, who successfully portrays the hateful man who takes all of his bitterness and frustrations out on his long-suffering wife. We hear a few very disturbing things about his own childhood and experiences with racism (with a few uses of the N-word) to give us some perspective about why he is the way he is, but of course there’s no excuse for what he does to his wife and kids. In the second act, he’s a small and pathetic man who no longer has Tina or the fame that came with being on stage with her.

Special mention has to be made of the young girl who plays Tina as a child. Samara Wheeler is small in stature but has a huge and powerful voice. She’s destined to be a star. The opening scene of her as Tina in church singing louder than anyone else is a brilliant start to the production.

Another difficult role is Zelma Bullock, Tina’s mother, played by Ibinabo Jack. She’s a hard woman who makes excuses for the violent men in these women’s lives, even taking Ike’s side a lot of the time. More sympathetic roles are Deni Gordon as Gran Georgeanna, and Nadia Komazec as Tina’s loyal manager. And there are some big musical names making passing appearances such as wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector, and Aussie Roger Davies, who resurrected Turner’s career with the song, What’s Love Got To Do With It.

It’s the musical numbers that audiences are there for and they are brilliant, including a gloriously glitzy version of Disco Inferno during Turner’s Vegas days, and of course Nutbush City Limits and River Deep, Mountain High.

Vicki Englund


Other reviews you might enjoy:

Leave a Reply