#SheReviews Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

July 8, 2024

She Society had simply the best time at Opening Night of Tina – The Tina Turner Musical. A sparkling who’s who of Brisbane, with an upbeat Friday night vibe, met on the red carpet knowing we were in for something special. I grew up with Tina Turner; dancing to her songs, crooning along to her love songs and being blown away by her stage presence. This show was everything I’d hoped. It was a high energy, toe tapping extravaganza which made the full house laugh, cry, sing and dance along.

I’ve been to many musicals, but this has to be one of my all – time favourites now. Most of the eclectic audience knew most or all of the songs but many did not know the life story of this incredibly inspiring woman. Tina (Anna Mae Bullock) had been abandoned by her mother, dealt with racism and domestic violence, before clawing her way back from certain financial ruin to save her family when she was in her 40’s.

Tina had a huge part in the making of this musical by sharing her stories with writer, Katori Hall. This warrior woman who embraced the battle scars of her life unapologetically, shared her unique trail blazing story, while taking the audience on an emotional journey. Along the way we came to know one of the world’s most famous women, whose voice was surely one of the best female voices this century.

The Story

Did you know there really is a town called Nutbush in Tennessee? As a kid doing the Nutbush dance at a blue light disco I did not. But in 1939, Nutbush was the birthplace of Anna Mae Bullock. At the age of 11 she was left in the care of her grandmother when her mother escaped to St Louis, running from her abusive relationship. At 16 she moved to St Louis and in a life defining moment met musician, Ike Turner.

Soon Ike and Tina Turner had hits like River Deep, Mountain High, Proud Mary and the well loved Nutbush City Limits, but their union was not a happy one and Tina endured years of abuse. Finally in 1976 Tina left Ike. She was broke and broken. With two kids to support she left the marriage with nothing but her name. But this was not the end of her story.

In 1983, in a British recording studio that you might have heard of – Abbey Road, she changed direction and recorded the hit, Let’s Stay Together. The hits just kept on coming and climbing up the charts. Soon she was appearing in films, winning Grammy’s and hearts around the world. The legendary Tina Turner’s musical career lived on for over 60 years and although we lost Tina last year, her spirit lives on in this fabulous show.

The Cast

You know when you forget you are watching a performance and believe you are watching the real artist? That is what happened to me watching Ruva Ngwenya transform into Tina Turner. It seemed a role she was born to play.

Ruva has been gracing our stages since her early years, with her musical theatre debut as Shenzi in ‘The Lion King’ in 2013. Since then, Ruva has been seen in ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’, ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ and more.

Her stage presence was electrifying, and her dance moves combined with her soaring voice were a standout of this amazing show. Her voice grew in stature as Tina’s star shone and by the end, she had the audience howling for more. With three electrifying encores it seemed like Ruva never wanted to leave the stage. She embodied the spirit of Tina Turner in this outstanding performance.

Giovanni Adams is the award-winning actor and playwright who played Ike Turner with a deft touch. His was an unsympathetic character but the role explained Ike’s importance in Tina’s early life and musical career.

The young Tina did an incredible job and what a voice she had! The whole ensemble cast was very strong fitting seamlessly into the story, ensuring Tina was always the star. I enjoyed Mat Verevis’ turn as Roger Davies.

The Show

This show is long, almost three hours, but the time whizzes by with all your favourite hits (more than 20 in all) being intertwined. The stage lighting was impressive, allowing the audience to move from the intimacy of a bar to feeling like they were in a full-blown stadium show. Costumes and hairstyles moved through the times giving a sense of Tina’s ability to reinvent herself through the decades. Wait for the show stopping sparkles at the end!

Australians embraced Tina Turner and the love for her showed in this full house, with many tunes winning their approval. Yes, there are your favourites like – What’s Love Got to Do with It, a wonderful rendition of River Deep, Mountain High, complete with backing choir and the rousing Simply the Best. Tina Turner fans, like me, will love this show but also be reminded of the vocal range and sheer variety of hits recorded by this music legend. It’s a bio musical and musical comedy rolled into a full-on arena concert. It was a wonderful way to warm up on a winter’s evening.

I left this musical feeling happy and uplifted, in awe of the tenacity of one inspiring woman from Tennessee. In the days after I played Tina’s songs on repeat and sang at the top of my voice. This show is a must – see from me. It’s a brilliant piece of theatre and story combined with a rousing rock concert. If you are looking for a show with a superb cast and band with music, you know and love and a chance to dance with joy, then Tina – The Tina Turner Musical might just be for you. This fabulous show plays in Brisbane until August 23.

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