Soul Sister: Review Roundup

Emi Wokoma

The jukebox Tina Turner bio-musical Soul Sister opened to mixed reviews – unfavorable for its creators but highly favorable for its performers – in a limited West End engagement at the Savoy, where it transferred after a limited Fringe engagement at the Hackney Empire. For the record, the creative team includes John Miller (book), Pete Brooks (book, direction), Bob Eaton (direction), Laura Hopkins (production design), Jason Pennycooke (musical staging), and Sean Green (music direction). The cast includes Emi Wokoma (Tina Turner) and Chris Tummings (Ike Turner) with Sharon Benson, Nadine Higgin, Ngo Ngofa and Joanna Sandi (The Four Ikes).

Julie Carpenter (Express): 3 out of 5 stars. Wokoma neither looks like the stomping rock ‘n’ roll icon nor exactly sounds like her … but she has a big, deep, incredible voice of her own. … She seems to embody Turner’s feral, ferocious spirit and reveals herself as a true talent in the process. … It’s as if the writers know the shortcomings of the often-clunking script, preferring to focus on the star and the music, magnificently backed up by the live band and the exuberant “Ikettes.” … While conceding at the start that most stories “only scratch the surface” this show does nothing more. … Simply the best thing to do is just appreciate the spectacle and relive the power of the music.

Michael Coveney (What’s On Stage): 3 out of 5 stars. Along comes this weak-kneed, sycophantic Tina Turner tribute … but with a blistering, knockout star performance from unknown Emi Wokoma. Wokoma doesn’t just re-fashion Tina’s greatest hits; she claims them for herself. … She sings like a dirty angel possessed, miraculously gifted as a vocalist, charting that unique progress from Gospel and blues to soul and the hard-hitting rock. … Chris Tummings does his best with a thankless role … but the main thing is that Tummings, like Ike, plays the guitar superbly. And he’s part of a really fantastic onstage band.

Paul Taylor (Independent): 3 out of 5 stars. Savour Emi Wokoma’s phenomenal performance as Tina Turner. … The sensuous drive and rhythmic command of her powerhouse voice are enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck follow the example of those electrocuted-looking locks in Tina’s trademark lion-mane wigs. … It’s a pity she doesn’t have a better book to engage with. … The sizeable compensations are a fantastic onstage band, a charmingly raunchy posse of Ikettes (whose dance moves are wittily choreographed to keep track of changing tastes), and the superb Ms Wokoma.

Tom Wicker (Time Out): 3 out of 5 stars. It boasts a stunning central performance but lacks substance. … The perfunctory script won’t win awards for subtlety. … Vigorous choreography and a great live band recreate the atmosphere of smoky bars and stadiums. And Emi Wokoma tears up the stage as Turner, raising the show’s quality tenfold … into a performance of star-making quality. This is a foot-tapping, often enjoyable show, marred by a use of Turner’s life-story that lacks drama and occasionally feels tacky. Stripping out the personal elements and letting the magnificent Wokoma barnstorm her way through the set list would be more fun, and more honest.

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