An Inside Look at the 430 Iconic Fashion Ensembles, 180 Wigs Created for 'Tina' the Broadway Musical

Tina Musical- Adrienne Warren as Tina Turner, Photo by Manuel Harlan 2, 2018-H 2019
Courtesy of Manuel Harlan

"[Turner] knew that a leading lady — whether as a pop star or in a musical — has to control the center of the stage and, if there’s something shiny and sparkly on you, it tends to help a lot," said costume designer Mark Thompson.

Two weeks before Tina Turner celebrates her 80th birthday, the show about her life, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, officially lands on Broadway on Thursday, Nov. 7 after an opening run in London. The star of the show is Adrienne Warrenwho earned a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for best actress in a musical earlier this year. Turner, happily retired in Switzerland, is slated to attend the premiere at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York, after originally giving her blessing for the show to go into production in 2016.

The setting is significant, as New York was the city where she had a Cinderella moment — as she calls it in her second autobiography, My Love Story — and became a solo singer in her own right in the early ‘80s. That moment forms part of Turner’s onstage story, starting as a young Anna-Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee and ending with her stardom as one of the best-selling artists of all time — complete with all the looks she became known for along the way. 

"It’s the most extraordinary story about somebody who came from absolutely nothing," costume designer Mark Thompson, who created about 430 costumes for the stage production, told The Hollywood Reporter. As the winner of two Laurence Olivier Awards for best costume design for his work on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Comedy of Errors, Thompson also crafted the sets for the production, adding that he had fun working on the show despite the enormous logistics of it all. Fashion-wise, he re-created some of Turner’s most memorable looks through the years, but also makes the costumes easy enough for Warren, who is onstage for almost the entire show, to slip on and off.

"I have an incredible team backstage," Warren told THR. "My dresser, Cate [Goetschius], who has been with me for nearly 10 years, Geo [Brian Hennings], our hair supervisor, and Drea [Gonzalez]. They get me in and out of my changes offstage as well as make sure I stay hydrated! However, I do quite a few changes onstage, which can be a little trickier." She highlights the change at the end of the performance of "We Don’t Need Another Hero." “My dresser sneaks onstage in darkness and we change my dress from the iconic black leather to the red leather dress in a matter of seconds."

In act two, Warren wears day dresses with magnets and tie-belts that are easy to take on and off. "Some of the changes happen onstage, behind a clothes rack," Thompson adds.

Turner’s 1988 Guinness World Record-setting concert at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio, which attracted over 180,000 people, bookends the musical. The first half follows her as a child, left by her parents in the care of her grandmother; her move to St. Louis and meeting Ike Turner as a teenager; through to their years performing together as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. The second half focuses on her life in the ‘70s and ‘80s, where she took on her most well-known looks.

"Many of the costumes in act two make me feel the most like Tina, mainly because that was the Tina my parents introduced me to at a young age," says Warren. "My "What’s Love Got to Do With It" costume, with the denim jacket and black leather dress, feels the most iconic, while the Swarovski Tina-inspired dress I wear for the end of the show is definitely a favorite because it feels like a hybrid of myself and Tina."

These were the looks Thompson knew he and his team had to include in the show. "We knew we had to do the red leather dress, we knew we had to do the dress [she wears] at the Ritz Club in New York, [which led to her solo success] and the black leather mini with the jean jacket," he says. During her career, Turner worked with some of the world’s most renowned fashion designers, from Giorgio Armani to Bob Mackie and Azzedine Alaia, who designed her red leather dress.

"She was very canny," Thompson says. "She knew that a leading lady — whether as a pop star or in a musical — has to control the center of the stage and, if there’s something shiny and sparkly on you, it tends to help a lot." She was also practical, as she shares in her second biography: "Fishnet stockings didn't run as often as the other kind. Short dresses were easier for dancing because they left my legs free. Leather didn't show perspiration or dirt, and it never wrinkled."

For other outfits, particularly when Turner was younger, Thompson relied on his knowledge of the singer’s taste and trends at the time. In the scene where she first meets Ike, at Club Manhattan in St. Louis, he contrasts Turner, who at this stage is still 17-year-old Anna Mae, with her older sister and friends, by putting her in a slimmer-fitting dress. "I put all the other girls in full ‘50s bronze and old gold bouquet dresses, and I made [Warren’s] tiny, so she’d look young and sexier and a little less frumpy. That came from a reference of a dress that Eartha Kitt wore when she was young. So some of it is very much informed by the photographs that you’ve seen Tina in, but others, we’ve just made up. I don’t know what she wore all the time during the ‘50s. There isn’t a lot of her in ordinary day-wear because she wasn’t as famous then."

He and costume associate Jack Galloway created Pinterest boards of inspiration and they took trips to vintage stores in London, looking for clothing that not only felt like something Turner would have worn, but also suited the actress playing her. "There’s a little paisley jumper dress Adrienne wears that was originally just a piece of vintage clothing, but it suited her."

One of the show’s flashiest outfits, which plays on Turner’s love of shiny dresses, is based on a famous Herb Ritts photograph. "She’s wearing this sort of mesh dress with a few diamanté bits and that's where the inspiration for what we call 'the coda dress' comes from. We wanted to up the ante when she comes onstage and does the mini-concert at the end of the show," Thompson says. "We were also subsidized by Swarovski, so it was a perfect chance to show off their wares and make a sparkle for her. There are hundreds — there might even be a thousand — crystals on it. They’re all hand-sewn on and all the fringing on the bottom is all handmade."

Campbell Young Associates handles the show’s 180 wigs — eight of which Warren wears, including Turner’s higher-than-high blonde one. "There has to an element of theatricality about it," he told THR. "Her shows were concerts. They were fantastic dancing, singing music concerts, but they weren’t theatrical concerts. So with our looks, we had to try make them more theatrical in the colors and the styles. There’s that fabulous image of her with David Bowie, and you literally see images of Tina — she’s had every style, every color [of hair] under the sun — so it was great fun researching it, and deciding what we were going to do." Turner also gave one of her wigs to the hair team to help with its research. 

Aside from a few small notes, Thompson says Turner wasn’t involved in the day-to-day production. She is an executive producer of the show, which is directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Katori Hall. "Tina had lots of chats with Katori and Phyllida," Thompson says. "She came and saw the cast, and did a dance day with [choreographer] Anthony [Van Laast], but she very much did leave it up to us how the whole show turned out."

Tina is due to open next in the Netherlands, followed by Stuttgart, Germany in 2020.