Inspiring and amazing: Tina Turner musical is simply the best!

Tina Turner’s life story is as inspiring as it is amazing, as a stage musical tribute to the late great star reveals

Jul 10, 2024, updated Jul 10, 2024
Ruva Ngwenya is brilliant in TINA: The Tina Turner Musical now showing at QPAC. Photo: Daniel Boud

Ruva Ngwenya is brilliant in TINA: The Tina Turner Musical now showing at QPAC. Photo: Daniel Boud

Tina Turner represents much more to the world than just a pioneering musical icon. Her life story offers hope to anyone struggling to overcome adversity.

Accordingly, the reach of TINA: The Tina Turner Musical reflects her diverse and transcendent appeal as a singing superstar, a sex symbol, a survivor and a spiritual seeker whose journey has inspired generations around the world identifying with one or more of its facets.

With a soundtrack including more than 20 of Turner’s hits and spanning half a century from the birth of rock’n’roll to her coronation as its queen (covering rhythm and blues, soul and disco in-between), the show is definitely not just for musical theatre’s traditional base.

Nor is the presentation of its three acts conventional. Reflecting the subject’s involvement as a co-creator alongside a multi-award-winning team, the storytelling is imprinted with spiritual and psychological symbolism. Themes of circularity are represented in both dramatic and visual devices.

Sharing the identity of growing up black in Tennessee – but with Turner’s example as a lodestar – writer Katori Hall has distilled and coalesced (and also condensed) key themes and details that are complemented brilliantly by the design elements.

At its most literal, the circular stage section that revolves around a static core could be a record on a turntable, but it’s used imaginatively and evocatively throughout, with Bruno Poet’s lighting and Jeff Sugg’s projection design accentuating Mark Thompson’s sets.

The music is vividly recreated through the brilliantly honed singing performances and touring band, in conjunction with nostalgic costumes (by Thompson) and Anthony Van Laast’s dynamic choreography.

Director Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) has harnessed these elements with perfect pacing between emotional and musical lows and highs.

The longer first half sets up the conflicting templates the young Anna Mae Bullock would have to work through to eventually find independence and solace after the professionally successful but abusive partnership that was Ike and Tina Turner.

There’s no escaping the discomfort of its depiction (as well as her husband’s philandering), nor Anna Mae’s parents’ violent relationship and their abandonment of her.

But there are thankfully occasional moments of levity and joy. One of the best is John O’Hara’s brilliant characterisation of eccentric genius Phil Spector, the music producer famed for his “Wall of Sound”.

Despite depicting Turner’s challenges to make it as a solo artist, the concluding act’s tone is lighter. After all, we know it ends with her conquering the world – and finding real and lasting love.

How she gets there involves some funny scenarios involving unlikely teamings with Olivia Newton-John’s brash young Aussie manager Roger Davies, a British synth band and a German record executive 16 years her junior, Erwin Bach.

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Australia and Turner had a special connection long before rugby league’s Simply the Best campaign. In 1973 we made the self-penned Nutbush City Limits her first-ever number one hit and created our own iconic dance to it, which gets a nod in one of my favourite bits.

The final ingredient that makes the musical a powerful, entertaining, inspiring and ultimately uplifting experience is its stellar performances.

It takes an extraordinary artist to channel the force of nature that Turner was on stage, with her unique raw vocals and uninhibited physical sensuality – and Ruva Ngwenya does so uncannily. The energy Ngwenya puts out lit up the Lyric Theatre to the second balcony on opening night.

She and Matthew Prime, as Bach, generate smoking chemistry and when Ngwenya joins the sizzling singing and dancing Ikettes,their moves burn up the floor. (Jochebel Ohene MacCarthy will alternate with Ngwenya; her Tina also radiates electrifying charisma.)

Across the board the performances are first-rate, so the blip of an early mic issue on opening night quickly faded. TINA: The Tina Turner Musical offers, like the woman herself did, a one-of-a-kind experience that is as rewarding as it is triumphant.

TINA: The Tina Turner Musical continues at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC until August 23.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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