Theatre Review: TINA – The Tina Turner Musical

This stunning show is on now at the Festival Theatre, and it really is simply the best says FIFTY+SA Arts Writer Dr Diana Carroll.

It’s clear that these huge touring jukebox musicals are back in fashion in a big way. The fabulous Elvis – A Musical Revolution has just ended at Her Majesty’s and now we have the stunning TINA – The Tina Turner Musical on the main stage at Festival Theatre.

Like Elvis, this is an homage to the life and legacy of a supreme performer who had an enormous impact on popular music over many decades. Indeed, I don’t think I really appreciated the influence of Tina Turner’s music until I saw this show. All those amazing songs that have featured in the soundscape of our lives are here on stage. The only line-dance you’ll ever need to know – Nutbush City Limits; the anthemic I can’t stand the rain; and the guaranteed girls’ night out hit – What’s love got to do with it are all featured.

The playlist in the show is amazing but it needs an incredible performer to bring it all to life and Ruva Ngwenya absolutely excels in the lead role. Close your eyes and you’re sure it’s Tina up there belting out these pop classics; open your eyes and Ruva has all of those iconic Tina Turner moves with the legs, the shimmy, and the hair. River Deep Mountain High, towards the end of Act 1, is a really spine-tingling performance.

Ruva already has an impressive music and theatre CV but she is definitely destined for even bigger things after this stellar performance. It’s especially wonderful to have an Australian performer in the lead role given that many of the other key parts are played by international actors. And it’s great to see Adelaide’s own Nadia Komazec in a central role as Tina’s devoted PA Rhonda Graam.

As is well documented, Tina Turner’s life was not all glitz and glamour. She had a poor childhood in a dysfunctional family and then married the abusive Ike Turner. To its credit, the show doesn’t shy away from these darker aspects of her life. Tina’s mother Zelma is played with empathy by UK actor Ibinabo Jack, probably best known to Australian audiences as Detective Constable Jac Williams in the Vera TV series. And the extremely dislikeable Ike is convincingly portrayed as a pathetic bully by American performer Giovanni Adams.

The other stand out actor on opening night was Lucy Bowyer playing the young Tina, or Anna-Mae Bullock as she was then. Tina Turner was a stage name given to her by Ike, and one she had to fight to keep after they separated. At just 11 years old, Queensland-based Lucy already has a wealth of acting experience and really is amazingly good on stage.

The ensemble were superb throughout the show with fabulous dancing and tight choreography by Anthony van Laast. Of course, it’s all about the music and the band were brilliant under the guidance of musical director Christina Polimos who took an enthusiastic bow at the end. The touring band was complemented here by an excellent group of six local musicians, including well-known local sax player Vashti Tyrell who had a fabulous saxophone solo. It’s just a shame the band were hidden away in the pit except for a couple of numbers – it would have been magical to see them on stage.

This highly acclaimed show first opened at the Aldwych Theatre in London in April 2018 and has been touring internationally since then. And yes, Tina Turner was closely involved in the production so it is very much her story. There is so much to love about this show – the costumes, wigs, lighting, projections, staging – that there is almost too much to see. You could see it twice and still be surprised. It is stunning, stylish, and sophisticated, so book now!

Hero image credit: Daniel Boud

TINA – The Tina Turner Musical

Until 31st of May, 2024

Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide


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