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Simply the best: how ‘Tina’ captures the life of an icon on the West End stage

As the world continues to mourn the loss of singing legend Tina Turner, we explore how Tina: The Turner Musical, a production shaped by the star herself, is celebrating and bringing her irreplaceable talent to life on the West End stage.

By Dale Fox & In Partnership with Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

Tina the Musical (Picture: Press)

Few recording artists have ever managed to transcend the stage and captivate the hearts of the public quite like Tina Turner. Her life story has resonated deeply with audiences, forging a unique connection that extends beyond mere fandom and reaches people from every stratum of society.

Turner’s story is inseparable from her career, as she stood tall and proud on those famous legs, symbolising endurance and rebirth.

This ethos serves as the foundation for TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, which continues to thrive after five successful years at London’s Aldwych Theatre. The show goes beyond a mere musical retelling of the 1993 Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It (itself based on Turner’s autobiography, I, Tina). While all these works are of course inspired by Turner’s journey, TINA fully harnesses the medium by utilising the singer’s extensive catalogue to provide fresh context to her most beloved tracks, using them to punctuate her story in a captivating way.

Debuting in the West End on 17 April 2018, under the direction of Phyllida Lloyd, known for her
work on the immensely successful musical Mamma Mia!, TINA embraced Turner’s extraordinary life with active participation from the star herself. As executive producer, Turner played
a vital role in shaping the musical’s narrative and production, infusing it with the authenticity and accuracy that only she could provide.

The collaboration between Turner and the creative minds behind the musical is a powerful testament to her dedication in presenting her story with integrity and reverence — just as she lived. Turner’s involvement ensured that the production captures the very essence of her remarkable journey. It showcases not only her triumphs but also the challenges she bravely faced. This profound commitment, combined with the artistic expertise of the creative team, has resulted in a sincere and compelling tribute to Turner’s indelible impact on the music industry.

Tina the Musical (Picture: Press)

The show takes the audience on an extraordinary journey through Turner’s life, from her humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her ascent to Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll. The musical stunningly encapsulates the thrilling highs and lows of her career, as well as her personal triumphs and resilience. The story unfolds in a chronological narrative, delving into Turner’s early struggles, her tumultuous relationship with Ike Turner, and her remarkable comeback as a solo artist. It presents the multiple facets of Turner’s persona, from the defiantly loud, scene-stealing choir member as a child to the polished and formidable performer she becomes as a woman. Along the way, tears flow, laughter erupts, and the audience becomes fully immersed in the story of one of music’s most revered legends.

With each electrifying rock performance and soul-stirring ballad — complete with live band — the audience embarks on an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing the joy, pain, and ultimately, the triumphs of Turner’s life. The energy and passion emanating from the stage
are infectious, with the cast delivering performances that more than do justice to both the iconic songs themselves and the iconic woman behind them.

Instead of relying solely on Turner’s extensive discography for entertainment in the style of a jukebox musical, the show seamlessly weaves her biggest tracks into the fabric of her life’s story. In an early scene, a poignant duet of ‘Don’t Turn Around’ portrays the heart-wrenching moment when a young Turner leaves the home of her matriarchal grandmother. The track ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’ takes on even greater significance, representing Turner’s violent split from Ike.

Tina the Musical (Picture: Press)

And as for highs, there are many, particularly when ‘Proud Mary’ is belted out, complete with the iconic fringed dress, transporting you to Turner’s memorable 1970 performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. These impactful moments, where Turner’s tracks act as musical milestones, alter the perception and deepen the meaning of the songs, resonating long after the final curtain falls.

This musical tribute to Tina Turner is a testament to a legacy that not only prevailed during her decades-long career but will continue to do so for decades to come. Her story, filled with triumph over adversity, fortitude in the face of challenges, and an unwavering commitment to her craft, will continue to inspire people from all walks of life. TINA: The Tina Turner Musical is a celebration of Turner’s remarkable journey, reminding us of the transformative power of music and the ability of one individual to overcome obstacles and leave an everlasting mark on the world.

While we will never witness the electrifying powerhouse that was Tina Turner on stage again, the thrill of this West End staple makes it easy to forget that you’re not in front of the legend herself, as her story unfolds with one adrenaline-fuelled performance after the other. Every shimmy, high kick, and impossibly soaring note that erupts in the theatre lets us know that Tina Turner is still with us — and always will be.