Despite the nerves Olivier winner Katori Hall felt when she first met Tina Turner, she says the 12-time Grammy winner immediately felt like family. “It was a dream. When I was asked to come on this project, it felt so organic—cosmic even. I thought, ‘I’ve been groomed to be here on this journey.’”
The playwright—whose older sister was named after Turner—taps into her lifelong familiarity as the book writer of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, which begins previews October 12 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The bio-musical, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, made its West End premiere in 2018 and earned three Olivier nominations, winning one. Tony nominee Adrienne Warren reprises her Olivier-nominated performance in the titular role.
But Hall and her family aren’t the only ones affected by Turner, whose decades-long career includes hits like “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Proud Mary,” and “River Deep — Mountain High.”
“Music crosses boundaries—[Turner] was able to bring her music to so many different people. She’s just so grounded as a human being,” Hall says. “Her concerts always had this amazing energy that was almost goddess-like. She was like a tornado onstage, she didn’t care about the sweat, and she didn’t care that her makeup was running down.”
With that type of electricity, it’s no surprise that Turner was nicknamed the “Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll.” But audiences shouldn’t go into the Broadway theatre expecting a recreated concert—Hall was adamant on sharing stories that expressed the full range of Turner’s experiences as a black woman.
“I want to be honest about her life. I said, ‘I am a vessel for you, Tina. Tell me your truth, tell me things you haven’t told people, tell me how you survived through all the ups and downs. This is your opportunity to shine,’ We have to honor the trials and the tribulations so that we can inspire people.”
Ultimately, Hall wants to provide the audience with an opportunity to see what made Turner the artist she is, and, more importantly, the human she has always been. “I’m gonna take you to the valley before we get to the mountaintop so that you can understand her journey,” she says. “How when she is standing on those stages, up on a pedestal, we see the human being that went through all of that in order to create this amazing, memorable music.”