Eleni Cashell

Review: TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL at Aldwych Theatre

Now in its fifth year in the West End, TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL tells the remarkable true story of Tina Turner's rise to fame.

Running at the Aldwych Theatre, this is a unique jukebox musical that isn't scared to delve into difficult themes including racism and spousal abuse to highlight Turner's tough journey to stardom and her extraordinary courage and drive to succeed.

It takes bravery for a production to use such a well-known soundtrack, take risks with its score and utilise it to educate audiences about the trauma faced by Turner for over a decade, and ultimately, it's what makes it stand out against other musicals.

The book by Katori Hall, assisted by Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, starts right from Turner's childhood years in Nutbush, Tennessee, when she's sent to live with her grandmother in the wake of her parent's divorce. Right from the start, and throughout this production, you're seamlessly transported to a series of locations through clever set and projection designs by Mark Thompson and Jeff Sugg.

When Turner is just a teenager, her remarkable singing talent is discovered by Ike Turner, who through a combination of emotional manipulation and physical abuse, gets her to join his band, change her name, marry him, have his children and perform at his beck and call.

The show is sometimes an uncomfortable watch, but the production's intent to show the reality of Tina Turner's on-stage façade, and educate audiences without glamourising the story or shielding them from difficult themes is to be commended. It's brutally honest in a way that's refreshing to see and redefines expectations of what a jukebox musical can and should be. Tina Turner herself has said the musical isn't about her stardom, it's about her journey, and how you can turn poison into medicine - and this musical has followed her wishes impeccably.

Playing the title role of Tina Turner is Kristina Love - a fireball of energy, she rarely leaves the stage, has multiple costume changes and switches from playing an exhausted and abused woman to a glitzy and glamourous performer on a dime, showing Turner's development and the multiple personalities she has in her life. It's a masterclass of a performance with incredible versatility and stamina, with a real star quality that's memorising from the start.

Caleb Roberts' performance as Ike Turner has incredible intensity, and when he's not blowing you away with his vocals, he'll have you fearful of what Ike will do next. Although an unlikeable character, Caleb provides depth to Ike, so while you don't condone his actions you can understand his insecurities.

But it's impossible to review this show without mentioning the incredible ensemble. A core part of the show from the very beginning, they are an instrumental part of this production and why it's so unforgettable. Their energy never slips, and whether it's a solemn ballad or upbeat rock number, everyone is fully immersed in the scene, with not a single weak link on stage. "We Don't Need Another Hero" and the final curtain call numbers in particular highlighted the sheer strength of the entire cast as a whole.

Phyllida Lloyd's direction and Anthony Van Laast's choreography work together seamlessly, to create an outstanding production full of captivating performances that are simply the best.

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is a production that gets stronger in every way, and not to be missed.

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