Last Tuesday, Press Night for TINA, The Musical took place at the Aldwych Theatre in London and most of the reviews are now out! You can read Sjef’s report of the first preview here, my review will come later. I wish I could have reported on the press night myself but I never got a reply from the last Musical Team’s email they sent regarding promotion. I understand this event was probably too big for me and the blog but an answer would have been greatly appreciated… Fortunately for all of us, we had professionals there and here’s what they had to write about TINA, The Musical.
Spoiler: It’s a critical and public success and is now booking until March 2019!
While recording Tina’s troubles, the show is anything but a sob story since it is a tribute to her gutsiness and drive. I’d have liked to have heard more about how her Baptist upbringing and Buddhist conversion sustained her during the dark times, but Tina’s travails are always offset by the glories of the music. 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.
The music is paramount, making dramatic depth a secondary concern. Under musical director Tom Kelly and arranger Nicholas Skilbeck, the songs are dynamically staged and generally excellent, powering the plot without being pressed too awkwardly into narrative duty. Rousing versions of “Nutbush City Limits” and “Proud Mary” bookend the story. A scene which revisits the recording of “River Deep, Mountain High” with perfectionist control freak Phil Spector (Tom Godwin) also makes good dramatic use of Turner reworking her vocal countless times, ramping up the song into a volcanic crescendo. All those big-haired 1980s power ballads, once a guilty pleasure, prove well-suited to the high-gloss camp and sexless raunch of rock opera.
Warren irradiates the show with the joy she experiences in embodying Turner’s legacy of hope. Boy, do you root for her. When our heroine stages her triumphant comeback in the teeth of misogyny and racial prejudice, you end up in a whirlwind of elation.
The story covers in brutal detail the many years she spent with her abusive first husband, guitarist Ike Turner.
Warren, 30, is sure to win awards for her astonishing performance. Rocker Rod Stewart was in the audience and could barely sit still when she performed.
Few West End shows will have an ending quite as spectacular as when Tina starts belting out her most famous song.
The evening is bookended by a 1988 concert in Brazil: our indomitable heroine first prepares to meet her army of fans, casting her mind back to the prayers of her childhood, then finally does so, rewarding them (and us) with a full lights-blazing, full lungs-bursting rendition of Simply the Best. It’s the obvious yet perfect climax.
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.
Warren ignites the theater. Vocally, she has everything from Turner’s low, cat-like purr best heard in the lamenting verse of “Private Dancer” (one of the show’s strongest sequences) up through the blowtorch power of the rock-steady middle register to the flame-thrower rasp and roar of the head voice, all coupled to a machine-gun vibrato that shakes the walls of the building. And, in case you wondered, her scissoring legs capture Turner’s every fierce and frantic move.