Listening to Tina Turner reminds me of my childhood. My father is a bit of a music nerd, so our family home was always cluttered with thousands of audio cassettes and CDs. There was a wall in the living room dedicated to soul, funk, and rock and roll performed by fantastic black artists and I remember using cassettes to build myself a castle while “What’s love got to do with it” was playing in the background.
Tina’s voice meant a peaceful time with my family – and I was shocked when, as an older teen, I found out that she had very little of that peaceful family time during her first marriage with Ike. Besides that fact, I never knew a lot about her story – so I was certain that sooner or later I have to watch “Tina Turner the Musical” in Aldwych Theatre. I wanted to know more. It finally happened on my birthday this month!
The story of Tina Turner
The story follows Anna Mae Bullock’s (Tina’s real name) eventful life, from childhood in Nutbush, Tennessee, all the way to her solo career. At 17, Anna-Mae (played by Chanel Haynes) meets Ike Turner (Jammy Kasongo) who schmoozes her mother and then abuses her gifted daughter for 16 years. These are the parts of the show that are frankly, difficult to watch. There are physical violence and mental abuse, that could potentially seem too real and trigger some in the audience. Ike is portrayed as a money and fame-focused man, with no regard for emotions or real love. During some of the scenes, I could hear loud “Ahhh” and “Oh no” coming from the audience – it wasn’t just me who felt deeply touched and sorry for Tina.
The play is also a story of persistence, strength, and success that knows no gender, race, or age. Tina was 40 years old and has 2 kids when she decided to start a solo career and produce songs without Ike. It’s not easy, as music producers initially don’t give Tina much chance. But it is a happy ending kind of story – the one that finishes with global hits, and a new husband (a decent, respectful one this time).
Tina the Musical – the music
Chanel Haynes is such a powerhouse! Based on her voice alone, this show is worth every penny. Tina Turner has this “fire” in her voice, strong bursts of energy when she sings – and keeping up with this style would be impossible for most singers. Chanel Haynes does it effortlessly and performs hits like “Better be good to me”, “River Deep – Mountain High” and the classic “Proud Mary”.
A live band performs all the songs hidden at the side of the stage but emerges in full glory for the final 3 songs (that’s also when 99% of the audience ends up on their feet!).
What’s truly spectacular is the pace of the show: each song has its stage setup and usually a costume change. There are almost 100 wigs used in the show and a similar number of costumes! To make it happen, some changes happen – unusually for theatre – in the middle of the stage, in the audience’s plain sight. Tina changes clothes and sometimes gets undressed by the ensemble, and there’s this highlight at the end of the show when “child Tina” from the past passes a box with the famous “lion mane” wig to adult Tina.
Staging – omg! I sat in the front row and was impressed by how quiet all the scenography changes were. With the revolving stage, elements of the stage being lifted or emerging from the floor, you could not hear a thing (or maybe, it was well-masked by the music, but I highly doubt it!).
Tina Turner the Musical – how to get “Simply the Best” deal?
To sum it up – the musical delivers exactly what promised: a set of well-known songs, an empowering story that breaks the “young white singer” success convention and makes you awkwardly “chair dance” in your seat.
The show is ongoing, meaning it might stay in the West End for a long time! If you want to get yourself a deal, I recommend getting a “Rush Ticket” on TodayTix – it’s a “last minute” ticket scheme, which allows you to buy a ticket at 10 AM for a show happening on the same day in the evening. That is – if you’re lucky because there’s a strictly limited number of tickets available every day! I’ve managed to grab one and paid £25 for a front-row seat for “Tina Turner the Musical” – such a steal!
Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd
Choreographed by: Anthony van Laast
Set & Costumes: Mark Thompson
Ticket price: £25++