An overview of the plot of TINA – The Tina Turner Musical.
SKIP TO A SCENE
Backstage, Brazil, 1988
The show opens with Tina, preparing to go on stage in Brazil to perform to 180,000 people. Chanting nam myoho renge kyo a Buddhist chant, Tina then enters memories of her life up to this point.
Nutbush, Tennessee, 1950
Anna Mae attends a church gathering, led by her pastor father Richard. She is visibly moved by the music, much to her mother’s embarrassment, and Anna Mae sings and dances with enthusiasm.
The Bullock home, later the same day
Young Anna Mae is reprimanded by her mother for being too loud at church. An argument breaks out between Zelma and Richard, which results in physical violence. Zelma leaves the family home, taking Anna Mae’s older sister Alline with her, moving to St. Louis. Anna Mae is left with her father, who then tells her ‘I cant’ see my face in you’ and leaves. Anna Mae joins the Nutbush follks in the cotton picking. Time passes.
Nutbush, Tennessee Gran Georgeanna’s (GG) House, 1956
Years have passed and Anna Mae is living with GG. They listen to Elvis Presley on the radio – he is a white man whose music has clear influences from gospel, country and blues music. GG suggests to Anna Mae that she should try to go to Memphis to cut a record. Anna Mae dismisses the idea, but it is clear that GG is encouraging her to leave Nutbush. Having found a soiled dress belonging to Anna Mae, GG is worried that Anna Mae will find herself pregnant and trapped in Nutbush. GG encourages her to use her voice and ‘teach them white boys a lesson’. GG and Anna Mae say goodbye. This is the last time Anna Mae will see her grandmother alive.
St. Louis – Zelma’s house
Anna Mae arrives at Zelma’s home. Alline is delighted to see her younger sister but Zelma makes her house rules and expectations very clear. She tells Anna Mae not to brag about her school successes, for fear of being thought ‘uppity’ by other people. Alline and Anna Mae prepare to go out for the evening. Alline and her friends give Anna Mae a makeover.
Anna Mae is excited, and a little shocked, to see the vibrant dancing in Club Manhattan. Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm perform. Ike invites members of the crowd to sing with him – two women attempt it and are dismissed by him. Anna Mae sings and Ike realises that he has a potential star on his hands. Zelma, on the other hand, is less than impressed when her daughters come home late from the club, and worries about their reputation.
Zelma assumes that it is Anna Mae’s bad influence on Alline that causes their late return home. Her attitude changes when Ike Turner’s Cadillac pulls up outside the house and Ike asks to speak to her. Ike charms Zelma, and persuades her to allow Anna Mae to perform with him on tour, particularly as she would be able to send some money home to her mother.
Anna Mae rehearses with the other Ikettes. Ike announces that he has changed the name of their act to the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Tina is not convinced by the name, particularly as she had her own ideas. Ike reveals his aggressive nature and objects to Anna Mae’s remarks. To keep the piece, Raymond Hill, the saxophonist, suggests that the stage name of Tina Turner will help Anna Mae retain her own identity off stage. It is clear that there is an attraction between Raymond and Anna Mae.
Anna Mae is now Tina Turner and Ike increases his possessiveness and level of control. When Tina and the Ikettes rehearse their choreography, Ike becomes irate with Tina for using her own creativity and throws a cymbal at her. A female stranger arrives and tempts Ike away. While he is gone, Raymond asks Tina if she is ok, and tells Tina he is in love with her, despite her attempts to break off their relationship.
Travelling between gigs, the group are refused accommodation at a motel because of their skin colour. Whilst the fight for civil rights is technically over in terms of changes to the law, Ike tells Raymond that this does not mean that people’s attitudes have changed. With no prospect of getting to the next motel that night, the band are forced to sleep in their bus.
Ike and Tina remain in the parking lot. Ike tells Tina about his own father who was badly beaten for having a relationship with a white woman. Turned away from hospitals, his father was forced to live his final years in a tent in the Turners’ garden.
It’s clear that Ike is emotionally damaged by his experiences, and is also resentful that his first hit, Rocket 88 was credited to someone else. He feels ignored. Ike tells Tina that he thinks she’ll be a star but he already fears that she will leave him, like many before her. She promises that she will never leave. Ike suggests that they get married, and that they can the ‘King and Queen of rock ‘n’ roll’.
Before they can return to their car, Ike and Tina are interrupted by two white police officers and two local men who intimidate them and offer to ‘see them on their way’. Ike must pay them to ensure that he and Tina come to no harm. Ike was right – there is no racial harmony in Mississippi.
Hallway backstage / dressing rooms
Raymond has heard about Tina and Ike’s engagement, and he warns Tina not to let Ike make her his ‘puppet’. Whilst they are talking, Ike emerges from his dressing room with a pretty woman who is fixing her messed-up hair. It is clear that Ike is already being unfaithful to Tina. The woman is introduced as Rhonda Graam, whom Ike has employed as their road manager.
Tina is unimpressed and Ike resents her cynical comments, particularly as Tina has not been paid since she started touring with Ike. When Raymond tries to intervene, Ike punches him, and then assaults Tina. Scared and cowed on the floor, Tina is forced to tell Ike that she is pregnant. Raymond is the father’s baby. Raymond leaves.
Somewhere and everywhere – (Hollywood A Go-Go studio)
Tina continues to perform and wow the crowds. She is the star that Ike said that she would be, but Ike himself is busy taking drugs and sleeping with other women. Tina becomes increasingly isolated from her now-husband
Tina, heavily pregnant, continues to perform, and eventually gives birth to her son Craig.
Hotel on the road – another night
A new mother, Tina struggles to combine touring, performing and looking after her son, particularly as Ike demands that she goes to record a track. Craig has not been sleeping. Ike resents being told ‘no’ and slaps Tina. A jealous lover enters brandishing a gun, telling Tina, ‘if I can’t have him, no-one can’.
Another hotel - another night
Ten years has passed and Tina continues to sing and tour with Ike. She is pregnant with her second child (Ronnie). The Ikettes are leaving, fed up with Ike’s behaviour, and encourage Tina to leave too, but she won’t. They introduce her to the Buddhist chant, nam myoho renge kyo to give her strength. One of the women gives her a Japamala – a bracelet of prayer beads.
Tina collapses and gives birth to Ronnie.
Tina’s hotel room (dressing room)
The Ikettes coo over the new baby, but Ike has not been to see him, ‘spooked’ by Tina’s use of Buddhist chanting. The Ikettes impersonate Ike and his various aggressions. Rhonda arrives with pay cheques but once again is there is no money for Tina.
Alone with Tina, Rhonda begs Rhonda to leave Ike: she only stays to ensure that Tina is all right. Tina explains that she stays because of her children, but Rhonda suggests that they are the reason that she should leave. Ike enters and insists that he ‘do all the talking’ at their upcoming meeting.
Phil Spector Studio
Ike and Tina arrive at Phil Spector’s studio. Ike is keen to impress this famous record producer who is well known for his ‘wall of sound’ style of music production. Once again, it is clear that much of Ike’s aggression is a result of his own insecurities, and Tina is mortified by Ike’s ‘performance’ for Phil. However, Phil laughs and is charmed by Tina, much to Ike’s annoyance. The atmosphere sours as Ike realises that it is Tina who will be singing on the track for Phil – not Ike, who is not even required as a session musician.
Tina records River Deep, Mountain High – the track that will change her life.
Ike is moody and sulky, jealous of the radio play and attention that Tina is receiving. He states that the song will not be a hit. Tina’s frustrated comment that she should tour by herself results in Ike attacking her and Craig, now a young boy who tries to defend his mother from Ike’s blows. Ike starts beating Craig and Tina threatens to leave.
Ike becomes emotional, begging Tina not to leave, scared of being erased. He manipulates Tina, playing on her emotions and sympathy, trapping her further in this cycle of abuse. Desperate, Tina takes an overdose and collapses. Even in her medical peril Ike threatens ‘you die on me, I’ll kill you’.
Zelma visits Tina and tells her that if she is to survive this abuse, Tina must teach Ike a lesson. Ike has sent a limousine to collect Tina, and Zelma insists that Tina return to performing, and ‘give them people what they been waiting on’.
Tina begins to perform the iconic Proud Mary. She is frail and fragile, but she must continue to perform for the crowd, and for her husband. Suddenly, in the height of the song, Tina stops. She has had enough, and cannot continue. She runs off stage.
Ike follows Tina, offering her cocaine when she says she can no longer continue. Tina and Ike fight, Tina defending and attacking more than she has ever done in the 16 years of their relationship. She flees.
Alone, and barely dressed, Tina arrives at a motel, having run across a highway. She asks the manager of the motel for a room for the night. She has less than a dollar to her name but she cannot go back to Ike, not now, not ever.
Tina is joined by her ancestors, Nutbush folk and GG – we hear their voices sing ‘TINA, TINA’ as the past and present combine.
Los Angeles Nightmare
Now divorced from Ike, Tina is in debt and struggling to make ends meet. Her divorce settlement gave Ike property, money and the rights to songs they had written and recorded together – her only stipulation was that she could keep her name, Tina Turner, but as it is her who will not sing with Ike, she is responsible for paying venues for cancelled gigs. As a result, she must sing in seedy bars in Las Vegas. As she sings, a gun shot rings out: Ike continues to intimidate her.
Craig and Ronnie, now teenagers, find it difficult to understand why their previous lifestyle has disappeared. Rhonda insists that Tina work on writing and recording new music in order to fully escape from Ike’s influence and legacy.
Rhonda and Tina visit Capitol Records, where record producer John Carpenter and Australian manager Roger Davies are discussing Olivia Newton-John and a song called ‘Physical’. Davies insists that it’s a sure-fire hit, but Carpenter remains unconvinced.
Roger recognises Tina and cannot believe that she has no record deal. Carpenter tells Tina that Capitol cannot sign her, and Tina comments that perhaps it is because they already have Diana Ross (another black female singer). Carpenter suggests that Tina reunite with Ike to give her a better chance of being signed.
Seeing the temptation in Roger’s eyes, Tina invites him to watch her Vegas show. Carpenter warns Roger not to take the gamble.
Vegas hall (Burn Baby Burn)
Still in Vegas, Tina performs Burn Baby Burn, a show full of energetic choreography, sequins and back up dancers. Backstage, the dancers and musicians complain that they have not been paid.
Backstage in Vegas
Roger arrives, full of enthusiasm although he considers much of what he has seen as tacky and outdated. He tells Tina that he could manage her and get her the deal she deserves, much to Rhonda’s surprise: she has been working with Tina since the early days and they are friends as well as colleagues.
Despite her visible hurt, Rhonda understands that Tina needs to take this chance and she promises to always be by Tina’s side as her friend.
Tina arrives in London and meets Erwin Bach, who works in the marketing division of Capitol Records but has come to collect Tina from the airport as he likes to get to know the artists with whom he is working, on a personal level.
Abbey Road Studios, London
Roger introduces Tina to Martin Ware – one half of the band ‘Heaven 17’ who is excited to be working with Tina.
Terry plays a demo of What’s Love Got To Do With It. The demo uses synthesizers, and Tina is unimpressed. It is not the music that she wants to sing.
Isolated, alone and stuck in rainy London, Tina calls home. Craig speaks to her excitedly but Ronnie refuses to speak to her. Alline, who is looking after the boys whilst Tina is gone, explains that he is missing her.
Lonely and upset, Tina is also haunted by Ike. She still cannot escape the past and studio time is running out.
Erwin arrives at Tina’s hotel room with a package. It is a rag doll, sent by Ike. Tina is upset and Erwin offers to stay with her. He admits that he thought What’s Love Got To Do With It showed great promise and he plays her a tape of what the studio team had explored. Struck by the moment, and their personal connection, Erwin and Tina kiss before becoming self -conscious and worried about breaking the rules of how artists and management should not be personally involved. They reintroduce each other, with Tina introducing herself to Erwin as Anna Mae Bullock. She tells him ‘that’s who I am’. She is finally rediscovering herself.
Tina, Roger and the team prepare for the showcase to the management of Capitol Records. Roger introduces Toni, who has been hired to provide some choreography. When Tina becomes upset, Erwin tries to interject, but Roger dismisses his opinion. Tina objects to this dismissal and insists that this is her show, not Roger’s.
Clearing the room before the showcase, Tina sits down to chant. She is joined by her younger self, and GG, who tell her everything will be all right.
After the showcase, Carpenter tells Roger that there is no deal for Tina. Shockingly, one of the executives tells Roger that Tina’s age, gender and race both count against her, and that there was never a chance that she would be signed to the label. Roger quits his job with Capitol. Roger and Tina remain determined that they will succeed.
About to board her flight, Tina is surprised to see Erwin at the airport. She tells him it could never work between them but Erwin asks her to let him love her.
The Ritz, New York, 1983
Tina sings What’s Love Got To Do With It – the song that has made her a star once again. David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Grace Jones are all in the audience and it is David Bowie who has persuaded Carpenter to watch Tina.
Excited by her success, Tina is confused to see Alline who has arrived with bad news – their mother is seriously ill.
Hospital, St. Louis
Tina visits her mother, who admits that she struggled to raise Tina because she had so much fire in her soul. Tina is hurt by her mother’s refusal to see Ike’s abusive behaviour as it really was: when Ike arrives with food for Zelma, Tina realises that there is no chance of a full apology from ex-husband, even though Ike claims to be repentant after sober for three years. Tina leaves the hospital, rejecting her mother’s suggestion that Tina had raised herself and didn’t need her help.
Tina and Alline meet to scatter Zelma’s ashes. Tina did not attend the funeral, but hears that Ike did. Tina begins to feel a sense of freedom she has never felt before, and she realises she is surrounded by people who form her version of family.
Private Dancer tour
Backstage in Brazil, Tina and Roger share their excitement at the crowd and atmosphere in the stadium moments before she goes on stage. Suddenly, Erwin appears: he has come to be with Tina and he will now continue to be by her side.
Tina ascends the stairs to the shouts and chants of her fans.
End of Act Two
Note: at the end of the show, the audience are invited to sing and dance to a concert of Tina’s best known hits including Nutbush – a song that celebrates where we come from and what we become.