Review Round-Ups

Did critics think Tina was simply the best?

The show based on the life of legend Tina Turner has opened in the West End

Adrienne Warren in Tina
Adrienne Warren in Tina
© Manuel Harlan

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage


"You can see the show's tactics from the opening scene. The orchestra starts to pulse the beat of "The Best", and that unmistakable late-Tina 1980s silhouette appears, spotlighted in a doorway, spiky maned and mini-skirted. But instead of providing the expected release into a belting ballad, the action smoothly circles backwards into an ancestral chant and then to Tina's childhood."

"The problem for me is that, at least for the first act which charts her relationship with Ike, what we actually witness is a strong woman being brought down by multiple acts of violence. The more shocking the violence is – and both Ike's abusive behaviour and that of Tina's father elicit gasps from the audience – the more difficult it is to accept within the framework of a glossy musical."

"In every incarnation, beaten and proud, the American actress Adrienne Warren is magnificent as Tina. She has a knack for finding a wide-eyed joy when things are going well, and a deadness behind the eyes when they are not. Without actually sounding exactly like Turner, she catches the thrill of that throaty, powerful voice, its rolling way with a lyric."

Ann Treneman, The Times


"Phyllida Lloyd directs, creating a powerful flow and, at certain points, such as Tina's early touring with Ike, with psychedelic backdrops throbbing away, the stage pulses with energy. Tina is singing at the front. Behind her, Ike is playing around, doing drugs. The backing singers never stop. The set, by Mark Thompson, is wonderfully versatile and the songs are dynamite: "Proud Mary", "Higher", "Private Dancer", to name a few.

"Lloyd should take a bow for the Phil Spector scene in which the enigmatic producer has to coax and coax Tina to let rip (without Ike) on "River Deep, Mountain High" to complement Spector's famous Wall of Sound.

"I thought I knew Tina's story but, after she leaves Ike, it gets even more interesting. This musical tells it like it is. "

Michael Billington, 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. Warren also conveys Tina's growth from stoical victim of Ike's cruelty into a woman of defiant confidence. On top all that, she dances up a storm in a way that had the audience on its feet even before the curtain call.

"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."

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard


"The creative team boasts impeccable credentials: director Phyllida Lloyd was responsible for global mega-hit Mamma Mia! and the book writer is Olivier Award-winning playwright Katori Hall. 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."

"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.

"We bristle with anticipation during a mid-point rendition of "Proud Mary", although the show doesn't let rip musically until an extended finale. Simply the best? Not quite."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph


"Rumoured to have taken an £8m advance, the evening proves an Anglo-American triumph. 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.

"Seldom off-stage and required to execute multiple in-the-blink-of-an-eye costume-changes, Warren is entrusted with singing hit after hit; there are 23 numbers in total. She has to honour those smokey vocals, summoning the kind of heft you'd swear could tip trucks, but she can't allow any hint of karaoke tribute."

"Self-evidently it's not in the same league as, say, Hamilton but this jukebox musical boxes clever within its tight parameters. Even the bombast of We "Don't Need Another Hero" (from Mad Max III) comes to carry a raw emotional charge, a candle-lit procession snaking through the auditorium as Turner grieves for the mother who so coolly, so cruelly abandoned her."

Adrienne Warren (Tina Turner) and the company of Tina the Musical
Adrienne Warren (Tina Turner) and the company of Tina the Musical
© Manuel Harlan

Tim Bano, The Stage


"Despite the show's creative pedigree, with Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd at the helm and a book by The Mountaintop writer Katori Hall, nothing about the production is particularly interesting or innovative. It's a standard bio-musical, although that makes it sound like it was grown in a lab – which, considering how much it relies on following a formula, doesn't seem too far off the mark. Triteness abounds, with characters telling young Tina "Your voice is a gift" amid other worn-out tropes."

"The pull isn't the book, or the set, or the direction. Most of the auxiliary characters are comic and overblown. The design is unimaginative, the story skeletal. But in the end, wrapped around the bare bones of this extraordinary woman's life, we watch a Tina Turner tribute band of supreme quality. Between the first scene in Nutbush, and the show's last in the presence of 188,000 fans, they show the unimaginable difference between humble beginnings and the peak of global stardom."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"Is a feelgood jukebox musical the absolute best medium to tell a story about domestic abuse? Put crudely, that is the problem at the heart of big-budget global premiere Tina. 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."

"Almost as good is heavyweight Brit actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who brings a demonic charisma to the role of Ike Turner. Tina's abusive bandleader and husband is monstrous in his self-pitying, manipulative rage, but it's not hard to see the appeal of his raw wit and powerful sense of certainty. It is a deadly serious performance."

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