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Simply the best? UK critics praise Tina Turner stage musical

Jill Lawless, Associated Press | 4/19/2018, 7:03 p.m.
British theater critics on Wednesday praised a new stage musical about the life of Tina Turner — one that also ...
In this Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017 file photo, Tina Turner, left, poses for photographers with actress Adrienne Warren, who plays Turner, during a photo call to promote the launch of the musical 'Tina', in London. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP, File)

LONDON — British theater critics on Wednesday praised a new stage musical about the life of Tina Turner — one that also has the approval of the star herself.

Turner was in the audience for the opening night of "Tina" at London's Aldwych Theatre. After the show Tuesday, she joked that "I've found a replacement" in Adrienne Warren, who plays the brassy singer in the musical.

The show charts Turner's roots in small-town Tennessee, her musical apprenticeship alongside abusive husband Ike Turner and her solo breakthrough in the 1980s with hits such as "Private Dancer" and "What's Love Got to Do With It?"

With a script by American playwright Katori Hall, "Tina" is driven by powerhouse tunes and a performance by Warren that the Guardian newspaper called "simply astonishing."

The newspaper's Michael BiIlington called the show "a heady celebration of triumph over adversity ... (that) boasts a whirlwind performance by Adrienne Warren that left the audience, though not the star herself, breathless."

Warren, an American performer who was nominated for a Tony Award for "Shuffle Along" on Broadway, looks set to become a London stage star with a performance judged "stupendous" by The Independent newspaper.

In the Daily Mail, Quentin Letts said Warren's voice was a match for Turner's, and "could reduce the very citadel of Jericho to rubble."

Critics also praised British actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith for making Ike Turner a rounded character rather than a two-dimensional villain.

The musical is directed by Phyllida Lloyd, one of the team behind the frothy stage and screen hit "Mamma Mia." This is a much grittier tale that doesn't flinch from depicting the violence Turner suffered — something some found an odd fit with the musical genre. Time Out critic Andrzej Lukowski wondered: "Is a feel-good jukebox musical the absolute best medium to tell a story about domestic abuse?

The 78-year-old Turner, however, has given the show her blessing. Its message, she said as she joined the cast onstage for a curtain call, is that "it's possible to turn poison into medicine." -- (AP)