Telling on Tina: A Star is Born

Because I will be travelling for a bit, I decided to see the new bio-musical Tina in one of its last previews. So technically I cannot review this show at this point and I have no idea what the general critic might say about the opening night. I think I can tell you that Tina is by directed by the superbly intelligent and theatrically shrewd Phyllida Lloyd, who was also responsible for Mama Mia! She has also directed several Shakespeare plays and other theatrical classics with enormous success. I suppose, however, that it would be breaking the rules to say that her talent, imagination and sheer brilliance are on display here, as far as I am concerned. I cannot tell you, either, that I felt the production is exemplary and that I especially was impressed by the choreography of Anthony Van Laast, or that I loved the sets and costumes of Mark Thompson and the whole musical ambience. But I think I am allowed to indicate that if I was not a Tina Turner fan of great proportions before, I certainly am very curious about her work now, deeply impressed, in fact; and I was impressed not only by the music and the production values and the staging of the musical numbers but by the book by Katori Hall, with the collaboration of Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins.

In fact, for me it was partly the seriousness with which the story of Tina Turner is handled in this show that most caught my interest. This is not simply a Mama Mia! Songfest with a witty, satiric libretto sending up the conventions of the compilation musical. This is a truly dramatic telling of a real-life story – partly in the tradition of the old Hollywood 1940s and 1950s bio-pics, perhaps. You know – films like The Jolson Story or With a Song in My Heart or even I’ll Cry Tomorrow all of which turn up on Turner Classics. It is also completely contemporary in its dealing with marital brutality and male violence and to that extent made me think a bit about the HBO TV series Big Little Lies which also has a strand about an abusive, violent marriage and the collision, masochism and sadism that goes on internally in such a relationship.

So I must not jump that gun with a full-on review.

The gun that I do want to jump, however, is the one about the birth of a new star in the West End firmament. The whole of the casting is exemplary and when the show opens you will hear from others about the girls playing the Young Tine, you will see analyses of Kobna Holdbrook Smith’s performance as Ike Turner, Lorna Gayle’s as Gran and Gerard McCarthy as an appealing Erwin Bach. You will hear about the performances of Madeline AppiahFrancesca Jackson and all the others. But right now I just want to talk about Adrienne Warren who was performing the role of Tina. She is extraordinary. Her singing and her acting are powerfully brilliant and very much her own, and she absolutely nails being a convincing and totally compelling Tina. But more importantly, she has the kind of energy and stage presence that must have walloped audiences the first time they saw Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. There is something so strong and right about every note she sings, every move that she makes on stage, that I want to go see this show over and over again just to watch her. I am probably being unfair to Jenny Fitzpatrick, who is the Alternate Tina, and when the show opens I will try to see one of her performances too.

But right now I just want to alert you that whether you were planning to see this show or not, you should get tickets and experience the star power and full-on talent of Adrienne Warren. I can only tell you that I have fallen in love with her talent, her acting, her singing and her dancing. Get tickets to see her quickly, before the rest of the world finds out. And if you can, let me know if you agree with my assessment that this is a career-making part for someone who will have a stellar career.