Ipswich: Tina Turner musical aims to be simply the best

Emi Wokoma stars as Tina Turner in Soul Sister. Pictures: Idil Sukan Draw HQ

Emi Wokoma stars as Tina Turner in Soul Sister. Pictures: Idil Sukan Draw HQ - Credit: Archant

Highs and lows, passion and heartbreak, Ike and Tina Turner’s turbulent tale seems tailor-made for the stage.

The musical is inspired by the life and times of Ike and Tina Turner. Picture: Idil Sukan Draw HQ

The musical is inspired by the life and times of Ike and Tina Turner. Picture: Idil Sukan Draw HQ - Credit: Archant

“I think her life with Ike... the good bits were the music and we celebrate that on stage. Everything happens for a reason, as tragic and as horrible as it was, without what she survived we wouldn’t have had such the strong performer we know,” says Emi Wokoma, who’s been lighting up London’s West End in Bill Kenwright Ltd’s Soul Sister.

Inspired by the life and times of Ike and Tina, it follows their life from their first meeting; through their soaring careers and crumbling marriage.

“When Ike was five his dad was beaten so badly by a group of white men that years later he died. That touched me and Tina understood that changed his childhood, his life; him struggling trying to make his music against the backdrop of racial segregation.

“It struck me she really loved him but he was unable to articulate his emotion, his grief at what he’d seen.”

Their story calls for a lot of trust between Wokoma and Chris Tummings, who plays Ike.

“I’m never off stage and couldn’t do what I do without Chris, he’s amazing and so supportive; all the supporting cast and crew are.”

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She feels very lucky to be playing Tina, somebody whose music she’s grown up with; but knew it was going to be hard work from the get-go.

“I didn’t think I’d get it to start, so after the second audition and recall I got the part and was absolutely petrified but then I started training, watched (her perform); Tina is very physical and trying to embody her without doing an impersonation... that’s the one thing I was fearful of, I didn’t want to do shoulder shrugging performance of her.

“It’s a physically demanding show. She never, ever, was still on stage; she’s such an energetic performer. Her personal life was traumatic as well... so doing that for two-and-a-half hours is demanding.

“I have to sing 24 songs and let’s face it, Tina didn’t ever sing a lullaby; they’re full on power vocals. There’s no other way to describe her voice than sheer guts. When I’m not on the stage I’m speaking as little as possible, after the show it’s text messages and nothing else.”

Wokoma does get to belt out the best songs though, including What’s love got to do with it, Proud Mary, Private Dancer, River Deep Mountain High, The Best.

“When you listen to every song you think ‘ooh I like that song, that song, ooh that’s my favourite’, so many good songs to choose from. River Deep Mountain High was my favourite, I sing it in my voice at auditions all the time. It’s great to sing that as part of my job every night.”

She says audiences coming along to the Ipswich Regent from May 13-18 are in for a good night courtesy of a fantastic cast, with lots of songs you know and some you may not.

“The show is a celebration of both of their music and we give Ike a balanced story. You know, everybody has a reason why they are the way they are. Ike wasn’t a bad guy, he had issues and he was unable to talk about them and articulate them; but he was also a musical genius and hopefully people will come and listen to what they both did together and experience something special.”