STAGE: Tina: Simply the Best – iZulu Theatre, Sibaya Casino
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
IF YOU’RE a fanatical lover of rock superstar Tina Turner you are very likely to enjoy the latest tribute show at the kraal-shaped iZulu Theatre at this casino near Umhlanga.
Certainly South African songstress Caroline Borole and her two backing dancer-singers (who, surprisingly, are not introduced) perform their hearts out and get the crowd excited, sometimes moving many to stand and dance next to their seats.
It says a heck of a lot for the trio’s charm and vocals, and the hits of Tina Turner, that this enthusiasm is achieved, frankly, because the show format is desperately low on inventiveness and the otherwise competent seven-member band – no member of which (rather oddly) is introduced – looks bored stiff much of the time.
Like previous shows from the same stable, the format of Tina: Simply the Best is to offer minimal patter and let the hits do the talking. All well and good, but at R250 a ticket I, for one, would expect just a little more than some flashy lighting and occasional video footage. Two extra dancers, for starters, would have made the world of difference.
The show opens with the overlong Steamy Windows, with Borole and her sidekicks in gold minis, and goes on to embrace all the big hits and some lesser-known songs.
“Tina is not like a lot of other performers out there. She really puts on a show when she is on stage, so when one tries to emulate her, you have to make sure you study her down to the tee,” says Borole in a press release.
Vocally, Borole does a good job, often sounding a bit like Turner, and her Tina mannerisms (the sneer, the rigid bent-arm movements, the leg kicking) are done pretty well. There does, however, seem to be a lack of the Turner ferocity in some of the choreography, not least in the classic Proud Mary, which comes in the latter part of the show.
I also missed seeing the many Turner fright-wig hairstyles and the iconic fringed dresses of her younger years, Borole instead opting for five shimmering minis and keeping the same soft-perm hairstyle throughout. Odd.
Some 15 or so songs are gathered for the two-hour programme, including hits made famous by other artists and covered by Turner, among them I Can’t Stand the Rain, a fun Disco Inferno, an angsty rendition of The Beatles’s Help, and Addicted to Love.
Show highlights include renditions of We Don’t Need Another Hero (complete with black and white footage from the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome film from which it comes, and which starred Turner) and a sultry Private Dancer, which has Borole mingling with the audience.
The Simply the Best encore piece is also a delight and a big crowd favourite, while other hits performed include Nutbush City Limits, What’s Love Got to Do With It, Missing You, I Don’t Wanna Lose You, Better Be Good to Me, Typical Male, Let’s Stay Together and River Deep, Mountain High.
Conspicuous by their absence are The Bitch is Back (Turner’s version of the Elton John rocker), the 007 theme tune Goldeneye and Acid Queen (from the 1975 film Tommy, which starred Turner as the Acid Queen).
Throughout the show, enjoyable enough though it was, I couldn’t stop thinking that these tribute shows are becoming increasingly tired. We have had so many from the Showtime Australia production team at this venue in recent years – shows of varying quality, the best being the salutes to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson.
Surely it is high time casino management considered something more novel for the iZulu Theatre – perhaps illusionists, a musical, a dance show, anything with some spectacle? And especially so now that the casino’s exciting new Rockwood Theatre is providing showband tributes… and at a much more reasonable price.
Hooked on singing since she was 14 and won a high school talent show, Borole studied musical theatre for three years after she matriculated in 2011. The singer and actress placed ninth in the 2007 season of South Africa’s Idols and is also known for playing Jackie in SABC1’s Generations and Tshidi in the comedy series On the Couch.
Her first professional show was 2005’s Girl Talk, produced by Richard Loring, and she has since featured in such stage successes as Under African Skies – which saw her on a three-month tour to Holland, Germany, Belgium and Denmark – and Dreamgirls, in which she understudied the standout role of Effie White. She received a Naledi Award nomination for her performance in the musical Sister Act.
Tickets for Tina Turner: Simply the Best cost R250 throughout. The show runs until January 7 and booking is at Computicket or the Sibaya Casino box-office.