Devised: John Miller & Pete Brooks
Bill Kenwright & John Miller
The Lowry, Salford
Soul survivor might better have described the career of singing star Tina Turner, celebrated in this new musical.
Her dramatic re-invention as an icon of female empowerment, after suffering years of domestic abuse from the man who created her original stage persona, is already the stuff of rock ‘n’ roll legend.
And although Soul Sister claims to be “inspired by the music, life and times of Ike and Tina Turner” there’s really only one figure centre stage, leaving Mr Turner as a rather forlorn footnote, despite anyone’s best intentions.
Indeed his character is actually wiped out of the closing scenes, by one of the stage ‘flats’ that criss-cross the set design to reveal characters, costume changes or props.
Those, and the synchronised back projections that illustrate the story’s timeline through the first act, give the show its initial zest—even if they occasionally also give the audience an information overload.
Soul Sister has been devised by John Miller and Pete Brooks, with the latter also sharing in its direction. No-one’s taking credit for the clichéd writing, which also prevents some of the hard-working cast lifting their performances much above the same level.
So forget anything River Deep, or Mountain Highbrow, and just sit back and relax into a spirited tribute show packed with good music and feeding directly off the raw energy of Emi Wokoma in the title role. The voice might not always measure up quite as well as the many wardrobe and wig changes, but when it comes to emulating that ungainly rolling gait of a dance move that made Tina Turner such a live stage spectacle... well it’s a memory I still treasure—of the real thing!
With show-stopping numbers like "River Deep" or "Proud Mary" sandwiching the interval, Soul Sister is at its very best when it serves up a fairly faithful re-creation of the Turners’ touring revue shows, or climaxes with five numbers from Tina’s ‘late period’ catalogue.
As Ike, Chris Tummings will just have to get over the audience pantomime booing his final stage walkdown.
Reviewer: David Upton