"It's really important to me to have the chance to share my full story. This musical is not about my stardom. It is about the journey I took to get there. Each night I want audiences to take away from the theatre that you can turn poison into medicine" TINA TURNER
I went along to see the much talked about Tina Turner musical last week at the Aldwych Theatre. My anticipation was that it would be a toe tapping, nostalgic route down memory lane of all Tina's greatest hits, from start to finish. I anticipatied it would involve alot about her relationship with Ike, and her rise to fame. However, it turned out to be so much more. Some of the in between details of Tina's former life, I was not really aware of and with that new knowledge, I felt an even deeper connection and respect for a woman who I already held in very high regard. The initial silence in the auditorium for the first part of the performance was quite intense as we were transported into the story of an incredible journey.
"Turner began her career with her future husband Ike Turner's band, the Kings of Rhythm, in 1956. Under the name Little Ann, she appeared on her first record, "Boxtop", in 1958. In 1960, she debuted as Tina Turner with the hit single "A Fool in Love". The Ike & Tina Turner Revue became "one of the most formidable live acts in history". The duo released hits such as "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", "River Deep – Mountain High", "Proud Mary", and "Nutbush City Limits" before disbanding in 1976. In the 1980s, Turner launched "one of the greatest comebacks in music history". EXCERPT FROM WIKIPEDIA
From the time Anna Mae Bullock, which was the name Tina was born with, entered into this world, it was one of loveless strife and struggle. She shone from the outset, with her vibrancy and expressive love for life. It was clear that her voice was destined and ordained for greatness. As she grew older, it was hard for her to contain herself, especially in church, because she sang from a place that was deep and rich something that was not understood in an era and time where to be of that full expression meant you were working with the devil, and as a black person expression was not a thing you could freely do and be. Her mother tried to silence that light in her, members of the congregation looked down upon her, but one person who knew who she was was her grand-mother.
At home her mother was being beaten by her father, the pastor of their church. Anna Mae Bullock, found solace in her craft and the bond she had with her sister, Alline Bullock played by Vanessa Dumatey. Her mother, Zelma Bullock played by Carole Stennett, seemed to despise Anna Mae, and made that very clear. However, this was triggered by a need of wanting to be free, she felt having a second child had put alot of extra burden on her, she was being beaten by her husband - she was tired of the stuggle. Then one day Zelma gets up and leaves, taking Alline with her, leaving Anna Mae with the father, who too then walks out on her.
I needed to set the initial scene of this review by telling of the above because it highlights the journey of a child who was born gifted, a child who was born into a loveless situation, a child who had been rejected, a child who had her best friend, her sister taken away from her, a child whose only real love and source of comfort was her grand mother who rasied her. Irene Myrtle Forrester who played Gran Georgeanna, was a woman of God, a woman of strength and wisdom, who though dirt poor and struggling, gave Anna Mae the bedrock and foundation of a wisdom of hope, of fortitude, as Anna Mae herself as a child toiled the cotton fields, picking cotton for the white man. This backdrop is important in how black people managed their emotions and frustrations - though not suggesting how they treated their famlies was right, but you can imagine a man's frustration that his basic right to be treated like a human being, that his humanity was constantly challenged and trampled on. That as a man, a black man, just because of the colour of his skin being subjugated to being treated as lesser than, with no rights must have been a frustrating place to be and so often times they took their frustrations out on their family. And then came Anna Mae, who was nurtured by her grand mother, that one source that represented love, freedom, hope and her divine humanity. Irene's performance was quite proound. Her voice deep and rich with the undertones of the black spirituals, sen chills through me, one that included the notes of hope and a wearyness of life and yet when Gran Georgenna looked to the skies, to God, her voice imbued a rich determination of fight, of hope with the wonderful sprinkling of humility and wisdom.
The first part of the show dived deep into the intricacies and complexities of Tina's formative life, one that had the audience, I felt, gasping even contemplating their own humanity and man's inhumanity to another. And yet as the first part came to a close, I could see the light at the end of the rainbow because of Tina's drive, desire, tenanciousness to become somebody, to strive to find heself, to provide for her children and to do whatever it took to be great, to be the woman she knew God wanted her to be. And armed with the attributes and nurturing she had gained from her grandmother and life experiences, she went onto becoming one of the greatest female performers in the history of music.
The second half was more about the homecoming of Tina. Of her rise to fame. She was still in the struggle, and Karis Anderson's portrayal of Tina was a fierce performance. And when Tina finally allowed herself to be loved finally meeting the love of her life Erwin Bach, Music Executive, it is said he taught Tina how to love without giving up on herself,
Karis Anderson who played Tina Turner captured her brilliantly. The energy that was Tina was infectious, it was joyful and it was explosive. In this place so much healing, I believe took place for Tina, when she was creating and performing. Okezie Morro played Ike Turner, an impressive representation of a man who was a genius and yet cruel, driven by his own demons, his outlet was his womanising, his beatings of both Tina and her sons. Yet Tina later recognised the blessing in that experience as the quote mentions as the beginning of this review.
The Tina Turner musical is a wonderful cacophony of life with it's highs and lows, a musical showing us life lessons and yet through the lens of Tina's life, we see the determination to remain whole, to still aim for the stars, to follow ones passion and calling and still to find it in your heart to forgive and to learn to love again - love self again and to love others. The stage, the props, the singing and dancing gave this musical a magical, intimate experience of being home watching someone you love, someone dear tell her story.
During the second half the audience had the chance to really enjoy some of Tina's greatest hits. We were able to come out of her journey, as she had, to embrace and enjoy and indulge in the esence of music as a healer, as a playful friend, as an expressive whilrpool of the self indulgence into being free in that moment, and simply enjoying. The audience were waiting for this moment, and clapped and cheered and I felt that the eseence of this great woman had so wonderfully been captured through The musical and I would say to everyone - The Tina Turner Musical is amust see.
Tina's journey touched and inspired so many lives...hopefully you too can become the change you want to see in the world.
Link to the Cast: https://tinathemusical.com/uk/cast-creative/