A star is born: Emi Wokoma sensational as Tina Turner

Apr 26, 2012

West End beckons for Tina Turner musical Soul Sister as charismatic newcomer Emi wins over critics

What you need to know

Soul Sister is a new musical inspired by the life of Tina Turner and her one-time husband Ike, co-devised by John Miller and Pete Brooks and directed by Bob Eaton (writer/director of the musical tribute Lennon). 

Newcomer Emi Wokoma plays Tina Turner and Chris Tummings (Get Up, Stand Up) is Ike. The story charts the couple's turbulent relationship from their first meeting, through their rise to fame in the 1960s and 70s, their marriage breakdown and Tina Turner's re-emergence as a solo R&B superstar.

The show features many of Turner's greatest hits, including What's Love Got To Do With It, Simply The Best, Proud Mary, Private Dancer, River Deep Mountain High, Respec and A Fool in Love.

What the critics like

Soul Sister lays on a West End show at East End prices, says Bella Todd in Time Out. It also "treats listeners to 23 pinnacles of 20th Century pop at seat-vibrating volume". Newcomer Emi Wokoma blazes with "gap-toothed charisma" as Tina. "Seven letters for her performance: R-E-S-P-E-C-T."

Wokoma is magnificent as the husky, ineffably sensuous tigress of the charts, says Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. Her "sensational turn as Tina should be the making of her, and of this show". The unknown Wokoma is "blessed with a voice that could make your hair stand". Eaton's production is slick, but it's the leading lady grit "that swings it".

More than just another jukebox musical, says Clive Davis in The Times, Soul Sister is "a triumphant marriage of exhilarating music, seductive staging and a sensational performance" by the statuesque Wokoma. "A West End run surely beckons."

What they don't like

Critics make few negative comments about the production. Dominic Cavendish in the Telegraph says "the evening stints on deeper characterisation" and Turner is never presented as much more than the sum of her career choices and volatile relations with Ike, but "Wokoma radiates such inner, vital strength" you "feel as if you're getting a fully rounded portrait".

Alison Goldie writes on Whats On Stage, that she was "a little disappointed" that her favourite Ike and Tina number, Nutbush City Limits, was not included in the song line-up, but admits "it would be churlish to quibble when Soul Sister is a powerful show that looks destined for enormous success".

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