I have to admit, when Tina: The Tina Turner Musical was announced, I did automatically roll my eyes. Another musician biography musical. (And a desperately uninspiring title – even using the name of a song is more creative than just the artist’s name.) It’s the same when I hear that another film has been adapted into a stage musical; I can’t help this reflex reaction as I’d much rather have something wholly original, or at the very least a transfer of something original from elsewhere.
You can’t blame me for feeling this way, something that was compounded by reports of rowdy audience members who seemed to think it was a singalong affair. And I’ve still not seen it, though this is almost solely down to the Aldwych’s horrendous ticket prices – did you really think my ticket lottery luck was going to suddenly change?
Anyway, now I can at least hear what some of the fuss has been about, as the original London cast recording has recently had its digital release. I was slightly more familiar with Tina Turner’s discography than her life story, though that only amounted to about a third of the songs used in the show (one of which I didn’t know she’d covered during her career). So for the aficionado there may not be many surprises, but for casual fans and relative newbies there’s plenty to get acquainted with – encompassing a range of genres, including ballads, rock ‘n’ roll & a hint of gospel.
I don’t mind live cast recordings per sé (it’s better than not getting one at all), but I am always glad when a cast is given studio time to get the full thing done that way – it usually ends up as slightly better quality, and you don’t get audience applause or cheering interrupting the performances. The only place where this might have been a good addition is the finale (Nutbush City Limits/Proud Mary), as this is staged as a band concert performance anyway.
I especially love the earlier tracks that cover the beginning of Tina’s career, singing with Ike’s band (The Kings of Rhythm) in the late 50s and early 60s; the early rock ‘n’ roll vibe particularly suits Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s gravelly vocals, showcased well in The Hunter and Matchbox. The reimagined version of Nutbush City Limits, where young Tina begins to sing at the local church, is a nice way to begin the show – it’s always intriguing to see how songs are reordered & rearranged to fit a story, as there’s a risk of things becoming quite cringeworthy if it’s not done right.
Obviously what most people will be after are the crowdpleasers such as River Deep Mountain High, The Best, and What’s Love Got to Do With It? – and they won’t be disappointed with the end results. These are some of the longer songs in the show (a few early ones are quite short & snappy), and led with aplomb by Adrienne Warren. “And though she be but little, she is fierce” is probably the best way to describe her! Conveniently the same height as the real Tina, she puts in a towering vocal performance. If her singing gives you goosebumps when you’re listening to a recorded version, I can only imagine the feeling it can provoke when she’s performing live on stage.
As I listened through the cast recording I was reading up on the show’s synopsis, as well as finding out more about Tina’s life, and I had no idea of the rollercoaster she’s gone through in both her life & career. It does now make more sense as to why the musical was created; domestic abuse, a drug overdose & a complicated love life – sometimes soap operas can pale in comparison to the real thing…
This is a cast recording that’s worth listening to whether you’ve seen the show or not, as you can absolutely appreciate the performances & musicianship – and it’s definitely one for Tina Turner fans to add to their collection. Remarkably, it’s almost like listening to Tina herself.