Phil Willmott

Review: TINA at the Aldwych Theatre

Hooray! I have a new favourite West End show and I urge you to see it for a fantastic night of musicality, drama and lots and lots of Tina Turner.

centre Adrienne Warren (Tina Turner) and the cast of Tina. Photo by Manuel Harlan Centre Adrienne Warren (Tina Turner) and the cast of Tina. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

We don’t hear much about this musical, no casting announcement, galas, anniversaries or press releases about box office records being broken; the usual stuff long running shows put out to keep themselves in the theatre news. Having finally got a chance to see it last night this is obviously because it’s ticking along very nicely indeed without any such nonsense.

I joined the expectant crowd outside the Aldwych theatre and the excitement was tangible as we took our seats. So much so that the evening begins with an announcement not to sing along until the end. There was a disappointed groan from the full house determined to have a good time but from the off we were so engaged that no one would have thought of joining in and breaking the spell the writers, creatives and brilliant cast were weaving.

Now, I can’t get her tunes out of my head.

It is of course, a dramatisation of the life of pop and rock goddess Tina Turner told through drama which incorporates all her major hits. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t the ideal audience as before last night I was fairly ambivalent about her records. Now, I can’t get her tunes out of my head.

I wasn’t expecting much, tribute shows are often shoddily produced with little dramatic impact. Not so here. Of course it races through the years but when it does give time, as it frequently does, to show us episodes from the diva’s troubled life it does so with such artistry that you're fully engaged and willing our heroine to succeed.

It’s visually ravishing with classy sets and gorgeous costumes taking us from Tina’s back-wood, gospel infused origins, through her tempestuous marriage and collaboration with Ike, the wilderness years when she was dismissed as a “has been” to her triumphant return to chart success in the 1980’s and world stadium tours.

For once the characters breaking into famous songs doesn’t feel cheesy because within the context in which they’re sung they’re so heartfelt as they express loves and dreams, found, shattered and regained.

I saw Adrienne Warren in the title role and she was phenomenal, perfectly capturing both Tina’s vulnerability, her toughness and her extraordinary rock voice as she swept the audience along on her journey. One of the ushers told me she’s to play the role on Broadway soon. I’ve no doubt New York will be blown away by this classy show and its tireless star.

Even, curmudgeonly old me, got up and danced at the end! Go!

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical