Audience members at a West End musical showcasing Tina Turner’s life story described the performance’s “surreal” but “electric” atmosphere on the day she died.
Multiple Grammy Award-winner Turner, famous for hits including The Best, Private Dancer and What’s Love Got To Do With It, died “peacefully” on Wednesday after a long illness at her home in Kusnacht near Zurich, Switzerland, according to her publicist.
For fans attending Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre on Wednesday evening, there were tears, “moving” words from cast members and an “electric finale” after news of Turner’s death was announced during the interval.
“It felt like a surreal coincidence. We were very shocked”, Martin Poile, a 32-year-old casting director who is based in London, told the PA news agency.
“It was a surreal experience but the cast’s amazing performances felt like the most fitting tribute possible.”
Kristina Love - who plays Turner in the musical - shared news of the singer’s death with audience members, saying: “Tina would be partying in heaven tonight and would want the show to carry on.”
She also spoke about the time she met Turner in 2018, and the star singing Happy Birthday to her.
Mr Poile said: “(There was a) particularly electric finale, with some really moving words by Kristina Love about her experience of meeting and working with Tina.”
Abi Garrido, who was also at the show, told PA that Ms Love’s words “lifted everyone’s spirits”.
“Kristina, who was playing Tina, lifted everyone’s spirits after this, along with the crew and said that Tina would be partying in heaven tonight and would want the show to carry on”, the 25-year-old singer from Newcastle said.
“The second half was definitely a celebration of her amazing life, it was an electric atmosphere for her.”
She added that when the audience found out about the singer’s death “it didn’t feel real”.
“I just broke down in tears, it was such a shock.
“I was sat near the front so I could see the cast and crew visibly crying, it was such a surreal feeling.
So sorry to know that Tina left us.. just sharing the sorrow with other fans at Aldwych. BBC is there telling the fans that Tina died – most do not know. So sad. Flowers already left in her memory. "you can turn poison into medicine" We'll miss you. pic.twitter.com/oKST23OvVS
— Dr Raquel Iniesta (@raqini) May 24, 2023
“I felt for them so much, I could not have done it.”
Senior research analyst Neel Bhatt, who is 38 and based in London, said that hearing the news was a “strange experience”.
“It felt more emotional in the audience (after the news),” he said.
“Everyone had been talking about it as well as the tribute halfway through.
“Towards the end, after the actress gave her spoken word tribute to Tina, it looked like they added a couple more songs at the end to extend the performance, which was yet another lovely tribute to Tina.”
The self-professed “big” fan of the Simply The Best singer said that a minute’s silence was observed and that Ms Love’s words about her encounter with Turner were particularly “moving”.
“Clearly this meant a lot to her”, he added.
Turner was also remembered by actor Cole Dunn who said the legendary singer was “nothing but lovely to every staff member” at the theatre where the show launched in 2018.
Turner herself attended the opening night of the show five years ago and told the Evening Standard she was so impressed by the performance of Adrienne Warren who played her that she felt she could finally “retire”.
Speaking backstage on the opening night, she said: “It’s difficult to watch someone else do what we did for 40 years because I’m a perfectionist, but when I look and see it done so well I feel proud. I feel like I’m really sending someone out that’s going to do a good job.”
Turner, credited as an executive producer on the show, said she had “a lot of involvement” with the cast and crew and would be back to see the show again.
aw that’s such sad news about Tina Turner. What an icon & she was nothing but lovely to every staff member @ the Aldwych. Class.
— Cole Dunn (@CKDunn) May 24, 2023
“I’ll be coming backwards and forwards to have a look and watch ‘my children’. The first night was difficult because they hadn’t come on as far so it was more to criticise, but tonight I didn’t criticise – it was just to enjoy and feel proud.”
Tributes came from across the entertainment industry, from friends, colleagues and collaborators including members of The Rolling Stones and Sir Elton John as well as Oprah Winfrey and three US presidents.