Above – Ruva Ngwenya and band. Photo – Daniel Boud

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical is simply the best. With exceptional performances, beautiful costumes, clever sets and a finale that shook the foundations of the Theatre Royal, this musical is unmissable. The story of Tina Turner's life is fraught with heartache, sorrow and violence. But like a mythical creature she rose from the ashes every time and spread her phoenix song. Her voice, her music and her extraordinary resilience gave her the platform she needed to become one of the greatest of all time.

In this musical Tina Tuerner is played by Ruva Ngwenya and she is beyond magnificent. It is hard to play a role that is so well defined. Everybody knows Tina Turner and most, if not all, of the audience have their own Tina. The Tina who serenaded their great joys and belted hits that got them through tragedy and trauma. Knowing that you are holding the crowd's connection to Tina, not just playing a part, is a daunting task. But Ngwenya is breathtaking, bodacious and truly brilliant. She accomplishes the perfect balance of connecting her performance to Tina without sacrificing any of her own light. Her voice is powerful and there are spine tingling moments when she is Tina… so real, you can’t help but catch your breath. It is almost impossible to take your eyes off her as she transforms from a 17 year old girl, to a broken and beaten woman to the victorious and gorgeous wonder woman she is today. She can sing, she can dance and she controls the stage with her presence.

Tim Omaji took the role of Ike Turner. Together, performing live as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, supported by their backing vocalists, the Ikettes, the musical duo were one of the most successful live acts of their time. Omaji plays Ike, who was also Tina’s abusive husband, as truly and deeply abhorrent. He is ominous and talented and you can understand the magnetic pull Ike might  have had at the time. Ike’s transformations are fun to watch. His hairstyles were as offensive as he was, from an arrogant high top to an amazingly awful bowl cut. It must have been fun designing and creating his look. He carries the villainous vibe without apology but leaves room for those with more heart to work around him.

The whole cast was incredible. Each performer was living their own reality. Small flickers in expressions, a raised eyebrow, a reaction, made you aware of how in the moment they were. Jayme-Lee Hanekom was wonderful as Tina’s sister, Alline Bullock. She transformed effortlessly with her character, shining as she reenacted a rich and real sisterly love for Tina. Hanekom portrayed Alline’s beaming enthusiasm enjoying dressing up and hitting the town, eventually managing the Ikettes, just as well as she depicted her concern and heartache at seeing her talented and beautiful sister locked into a violent and controlling relationship with Ike. After Tina split from Ike, an exhausted and apprehensive Alline supported her nephews and dealt with debt collectors while Tina was in London digging deep to make her dreams come true.

In the opening scenes Amara Kavaliku played a young Anna Mae, the child who would one day become Tina Turner. Kavaliku radiated with a joyful energy as she leaped out of her church pew and sang louder than the whole congregation put together. Her voice was so strong and when Ngwenya called her back on stage during the finale she burst forth and rocked it out matching talent and energy with those around her.

Phyllida Lloyd's direction was intuitive and really brought opportunities for the story to unfold. The decision to bring out young Tina and other people connected to her past when she was experiencing moments of trauma was genius. This was a reminder that we are not just one person in this moment. We are a million moments, a million different versions of ourselves and those connections, those histories make us human.

The costumes, by Jack Galloway, were glorious. From the reveal of Alline’s dress underneath her duffle coat to the hot pink tutu that brought the crowd to their feet, the costumes were extraordinarily eye-catching. The detail in the thread and bead work brought a craft and element of excellence to the stage. The Ikette’s black, white and gold dresses brought glamour, the simple cotton dresses reminded us of humble beginnings, suits that framed Ike’s glory days and Tina’s transformation into a denim and leather wearing goddess.

There were two moments that were lost on me. One was the fact that three children were mentioned but we only met two in the musical. The other one was when Tina received a package in her motel. It was a small soft toy and Tina freaked out. When asked about it she said it wasn’t what was sent but who sent it. However the light of this show shone so brightly that any shadows were forgivable.

We all knew what song we were waiting for and the moment was perfectly crafted. The tension was palpable. We knew it was coming and when it landed the crowd was compelled to stand and dance. I don’t want to spoil it but Simply the Best was the best stage moment I have seen thus far.

I am still singing Tina Turner songs everywhere I go. Today a man in a supermarket stopped me and told me how much he loved Tina Turner. We chatted for ages comparing notes on our Tina’s. For they were not the same. They never will be. But the passion and fierce will to survive that she embodies brought us together amongst the capsicums. Go and see this show and get ready to raise the roof.

Event details

Paul Dainty AO and TEG Dainty, and Stage Entertainment presents
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

Director Phyllida Lloyd

Venue: Theatre Royal Sydney | 108 King St, Sydney NSW
Dates: currently selling until 22 October 2023
Bookings: tickets.theatreroyalsydney.com

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