Tina Turner’s highly anticipated bio-musical opened at the Aldwych Theatre in London last night to rapturous applause and standing ovations.
Broadway actress Adrienne Warren leads the cast as Turner, giving an astonishing, high energy performance, not just mimicking Tina but embodying her spirit.
Turner’s story of humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee to stadium-packing superstardom, via a violent and abusive marriage, is brought magnificently to life on stage by award winning creative team helmed by director Phyllida Lloyd, with book by Katori Hall, design by Mark Thompson, choreography by Anthony van Laast and musical supervision by Nicholas Skilbeck.
Read a round-up of reviews below.
The Guardian, ★★★★
“The show rests on the shoulders of Warren, who is rarely off stage and who is simply astonishing. Above all, she captures the fact there is not one Tina Turner but several. Warren shows how Tina develops and changes as a singer and how, in moving to rock stardom, she retains her ferocious energy while introducing occasional notes of plangent melancholy.
What is striking is the way the songs – and there are 23 of them – are used in a variety of ways. Sometimes they are there to advance the narrative, as when Tina steps into the breach in the recording studio and rescues a session by singing A Fool in Love.
At other times, they demonstrate her capacity for reinvention: in River Deep, Mountain High she follows Phil Spector’s injunction to stick to the melody rather than relying on the kind of aggressive fervour encouraged by Ike.
The tricky role is that of Ike, and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith skilfully counters his monstrosity by suggesting that he never got his due as a pre-Elvis rock’n’roll pioneer and that he was a product of a culture that encouraged male swagger: you don’t like Ike but you begin to understand him. That, however, is the mark of a production by Phyllida Lloyd that is both intelligent and consistently good to look at.
As bio-musicals go, this is as good as it gets.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
Financial Times, ★★★
“Adrienne Warren piles energy and commitment into the role of Tina; Her singing voice is likewise fiery, and strongly similar to latter-day Turner, although she can’t quite flush the throatiness away for the early material.
Director Phyllida Lloyd, too, moves the action along and intercuts it fluidly, but spends the final phase of the show assiduously building up to a nakedly adulatory climax and concert-style encore.
Katori Hall, who has written the book, showed with her breakthrough play The Mountaintop that she can handle discreet hagiography (in that case, of Martin Luther King) while giving the appearance of more nuance. Here, alas, there’s no nuance at all.”
Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times
The Stage, ★★★★
Yes, it’s a jukebox musical. And no, it’s not imaginatively told, galloping straightforwardly through Tina Turner’s life and works from childhood to the peak of her fame in 1988.
But two things make this new West End mega-musical incredible: one, her life story – the fact that the unwanted daughter of poor black sharecroppers in racist small-town Tennessee became Tina Turner; two, Adrienne Warren as Tina.
Tim Bano, The Stage
Daily Telegraph, ★★★★★
“Born in the USA, made in England. That’s the thesis of this slickly choreographed, beautifully designed and roof-raisingly well-sung bio-musical about Tina Turner.
It combines the aesthetic finesse of British director Phyllida Lloyd with the political instincts of Memphis-born, Olivier nominated playwright Katori Hall – and boasts a tour de force performance by American actress Adrienne Warren.”
Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph
Daily Mail, ★★★★★
Adrienne Warren. Dimples to kill. An impish, insistent stage personality. And a voice by Pratt & Whitney. That voice, I tell you: it could reduce the very citadel of Jericho to rubble. It is as big and growly as the real Tina Turner in her lion-mane strutting heyday.
This show is a great deal better than most jukebox musicals. It is not just a collection of hit songs interspersed with prosaic dialogue.
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
The Times, [paywall] ★★★★
“Simply the best way to tell the story of Tina Turner”
“This is a great show that is going to be a hit and its star, Adrienne Warren, is, as someone once sang, simply the best.”
Ann Treneman, The Times
Evening Standard, ★★★
“The big wheels of the musicals industry keep on turning, and who better to power a high-profile new show than the queen of rock and roll herself, Tina Turner?
Warren is a livewire performer with a belter of a voice and the hits, as well as that iconic clothing combination of leather and denim, are all present and correct.
The creative team boasts impeccable credentials. Yet the material surprisingly lacks rigour, too often staying in soft-focus when a more forensic examination is required; a breathless programme-note hagiography by Hall suggests that perhaps Turner’s involvement in the project might also have brought with it the lack of beneficial critical distance.”
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard
Time Out, ★★★
“The tunes are great and Adrienne Warren is magnificent as Tina Turner, but is this too dark a story for a jukebox musical?
The erstwhile Anna Mae Bullock’s eventful life and beloved back catalogue are perfect subjects for adaptation. But too often Phyllida Lloyd’s production struggles to make a sensitive synthesis of the two.
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.
By the time Warren busts out ‘Simply the Best’ and reprises of ‘Nutbush City Limits’ and ‘Proud Mary’ for the mini-concert at the end, the roof is suitably blown off.”
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical is booking until 16 February 2019 at the Aldwych Theatre, London.