Directors: Pete Brooks & Bob Eaton
Producers: Bill Kenwright & John Miller
Choreographer: Jason Pennycooke
Reviewer: Lindsay Sykes
Unfortunately for Darlington we were treated to an almost complete understudy show for Soul Sister, telling the story of Ike and Tina Turner. The programme is at pains to point out that the show is not an authorised biography and is inspired by the music of Ike and Tina.
Rochelle Neil plays Tina from her beginnings in the 50’s when she lived in Nutbush as Annie Mae Bullock who sang gospel in Church to the 1980’s when she found fame again. Neil has an amazing voice when singing but clearly tired towards the end of each half. The end of the first half finishes with River Deep Mountain High which lacks the power from the vocals at the beginning of the show. Likewise, the second half starts with a powerhouse version of Proud Mary but by Simply the Best at the end her voice was flagging again. Her performance and movements are distinctly Tina Turner but her acting was stilted and didn’t flow.
Chris Tummings is Ike Turner, misogynist drunk and drug taker, his violence towards his wife is legendary but Tummings characterisation is one dimensional almost pantomime-esq, not showing Ike with any redeeming features at all.
The show spans over 30 years but glosses over the most salient points of the couples years together. Ike and Tina come from an America that is still racially segregated, their music too white for the black community and too black for the white community. The couple works hard to make it big, performing up to 30 times a week even when Tina is 8 months pregnant. They eventually get their big break with the help, of the disembodied voice, of Phil Spectre. River Deep Mountain High is a massive hit in Europe where racism isn’t as severe as the states but this is almost ignored within the confines of the story.
The violence between Ike and Tina is less graphic for the stage than reality but you don’t feel the despair from the abused Tina or the relief she finds from Buddhism. Neither do we get the spiral of abuse as Ike loses Tina and fame to his dependence of drink and drugs.
The scenery is different with sliding doors passing along the stage to show the changes, whilst cartoon type pictures are projected on a back drop while the voice of Annie Mae talks us through her life story. Or we were treated to the live band during the song performances.
The last part of the show is supposed to be a concert and although the audience are encouraged to get up and dance only a few take up the offer, which seems a shame as it feels that the entire audience should have been up dancing in the aisles.
If you are a Tina Turner fan you should maybe go to see a Tina Turner tribute act as you may be disappointed with Soul Sister.