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Tina Turner musical 'Tina' opens in London's West End - review

How does the musical tribute to one of the world's most beloved superstars hold up?

2018-04-19

There’s a sign outside the refurbished Aldwych Theatre boasting about the air conditioning and by God, it needs to be cranked up to the max given the heat generated by Adrienne Warren as the titular heroine of this Tina Turner musical.

The show itself has many shortcomings but Warren gives a star-making turn as the soul survivor who found the strength to walk (or indeed stagger) away from an abusive marriage to become one of the most successful female artists of all time.

Simply the best version of Turner's inspiring showbiz story? Nope. That honour goes to the 1993 film What’s Love Got To Do With It, which took time to tell the tale of how Anna Mae Bullock joined creative forces with Ike Turner and became a superstar whose success masked a river deep, mountain high world of pain.

This Katori Hall-scripted, Phyllida Lloyd-directed show races through the Ike and Tina story (they're working together, then they're romantically involved, then ten years have passed in ten minutes and they have a child) whilst failing to properly dramatise their professional achievements.

Left-right: Adrienne Warren (Tina Turner) and Lorna Gayle (Gran Georgeanna) Photo by Manuel Harlan

Lloyd is the lady who brought us Mamma Mia! (so bad on stage yet so enjoyable on film) and whilst she and Hall are supposedly telling a linear story, not shoehorning songs into a tenuous Greek island scenario, they still make such wrongheaded choices as sticking such '80s Tina hits as 'Let's Stay Together' into the '60s and '70s narrative.

The second act, where Turner claws her way back to the top, is much better because Warren gets to sing the roof off the place. OK, so using 'We Don't Need Another Hero' as a funeral song for her late mother is bonkers, given how it references Mad Max and his Thunderdome, but Warren turns it into an epic lament.

Adrienne Warren as Tine Turner. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Imported from Broadway, she's a brilliant actress who captures Tina's fighting spirit, her trademark laugh and wry smile without doing a slavish impersonation. It's when she tears into the songs, though, that she really impresses. Wisely the show's creators let her rip in a mini-concert that brings it to a stirring close. She doesn't get to sing 'Steamy Windows', sadly, but she's so smoking hot the air con has gone into overdrive.

Tina is no more than a three-star show, but Warren is a five-star performer if ever there was one.

Rating: 3/5

Tina is at the Aldwych Theatre, London until 20 October. Box office: 0845 200 7981

Words: Simon Button