The best thing about Soul Sister is the incredible vocal talents of its star, Emi Wokoma. Despite the fact that she does not necessarily look like Tina Turner or even have the same husky vocal qualities of the star; this does not, in any way detract from the energy that this ‘powerhouse’ brings to the stage.
Soul Sister sits somewhat awkwardly in the genre of musical theatre. It hovers somewhere on the border of a bio-musical and a tribute concert to Turner, with the first act focusing on how Tina was discovered by Ike and the turbulent relationship she endured, the second act becoming more of a mega-mix review of her most successful hits.
Wokoma is quickly developing an impressive name for herself on the West End and further afield, her efforts in this production are only likely to accelerate this. Wokoma’s grasp on Tina Turner’s expressions, mannerisms and movement styles all whilst draped in the shiny, short dresses emulate Turner’s spirit wonderfully. Wokoma’s confidence and stage presence grew significantly throughout the performance, carefully crafted, she was able to develop a level of pathos with her audience; so much so, that many audience members called out supportive comments when Wokoma’s Turner finally stood up for herself, refusing to no longer take the beatings served by her husband.
Chris Tummings performed as Ike Turner, who at some points of this production was simply lost in the shadow of the drama surrounding Tina. Tumming’s vocal abilities are certainly notable, and like Wokoma he was able to work a number of soft, gentle scenes effectively, before exploding in to more dramatic and tense sequences.
This production uses no sets and very few props, rather settings and dates are projected on to the stage in order to set the scene. Whilst this is reasonably effective, it does detract from the ‘an evening at the theatre’ sensation, coming across as a cheaper alternative.
The band – led by Sean Green – are certainly very talented and obviously instrumental to such a powerful, music-heavy show. Located on stage for the duration the cast were, at times, able to work with them, feeding from the energy provided, yet at other times the presence of the band distracted somewhat from the emotional moments taking place further down stage.
The last few numbers of this show had the audience on their feet, singing and dancing along as would be expected from a ‘jukebox’ musical. While this show is great for Tina Turner fans, general theatre goers may be a little disappointed with the story that seems to be forgotten about early in the second act.
Soul Sister is playing at the Savoy Theatre, London until 29 September. Tickets can be purchased online or by phoning 0844 871 7687.