By Barbara Bullock, M.F.A., spiritual writer
Freedom in the Netherlands
When it was announced that Tina the Tina Turner musical would also be shown in the Netherlands, I was thrilled. The Netherlands as a country have had deep personal meanings ever since I was little. Some of them have to do with Anna Mae Bullock/Tina Turner and the Tina musical. Let me explain.
Growing up we had family friends living in the Netherlands that we would visit regularly. Some of my memories from that time are quite vivid, so either we must have visited them every year or so, or the memories made were so significant that they were literally engraved into my mind. In any case, I cannot remember where we visited exactly, but I remember this. I remember the feeling I had whenever I did. I do know that there was a horse ranch somewhere in the countryside not too far from the German border. One (or more) memory sticks out in particular. I remember tall, dark beautiful horses. I can still see them galloping freely around the beautiful pastures on the ranch in my mind. I also remember a scene in my mind in which these tall dark horses seemed gigantic in comparison to me, a little four-year-old girl. I also remember the best part of it all. I can still see myself riding one of these tall dark horses at that same age protected by an adult male who would make sure that I was safe and could enjoy the ride. I not only enjoyed it, but, likely for the first time of my life, I learned what freedom meant. You see, my childhood had its many dark moments and many restrictions, but this moment, this right there, was one of my highlights. Riding through the wind around the ranch was probably one of the best experiences in my life at that time. I could not put words on the feeling nor experience. I felt loved; I felt secure; I felt free. Unfortunately, I do not even know anymore who rode with me on that day (and maybe more often than just once), but I know that this moment right there has been one of the most significant moments in my entire life. Now more than four decades later, I know what it is called: freedom.
Now you can probably imagine how much Tina Turner’s music video to the song “The Best” must remind me of the freedom of riding on such a tall dark horse. Indeed, this music video does bring back exactly these more than lovely memories. Next, in 2009 when Tina’s World Tour would visit the Netherlands where she would perform at the GelreDome in Arnhem, I was fortunate to be able to attend all shows she did back then in March and in May and my own love story with the Netherlands and the connection to Tina would continue and deepen with more personal, lifechanging moments. Somehow, Tina/Anna Mae herself, me and the Netherlands share an incredibly special connection. Little did I know back then that it would bring me back to the Netherlands years later. This time, it was Anna Mae’s story from her upbringing to and her quest for freedom and success.
All in Dutch
This time, Anna Mae’s story, a little girl growing up in Nutbush, Tennessee and rising to the world’s biggest stars would be interpreted in Dutch. I had known from the musical in Germany that not only the dialogue but also the songs would be sung in Dutch. Quite honestly, I had no idea how that should work especially for me given that I do not speak Dutch at all. Fortunately, many people in the Netherlands speak English so well that, in my experience, you do not even need to ask them first if they do. I felt quite relieved when I could communicate easily when visiting the Netherlands again last February when asking for directions, ordering food etc. Entering the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht was a bit of a different scenario though. Clearly, everybody was a native there so to speak and knew the language. I had no idea. I was not sure what to expect. I hoped that no one would find out that I was here to see a play that I would not understand. Old insecurities emerged when I wondered if anyone would judge me for that. I had mainly come to support Anna Mae/Tina with her Tina musicals and put a visitor’s pin on my map of the Netherlands on the city of Utrecht. As my eyes fell on a poster with a beautiful photo of Anna Mae/Tina, I knew what to do. Put your fears aside and go in anyway. The usher looked at me, checked our tickets, and sent us to the front section of the front orchestra – all in Dutch. Just nodding my head, trying to fit into the local audience, we made our way to our seats. Two beautiful eyes printed on the curtain in the theater looked at me and gave me comfort. Oh, do not these two beautiful eyes mesmerize everyone who seems them! Lights out and the musical started. Luckily, I had seen the Tina musical on Broadway eight times before last November and had started to know many parts of the script. Having these words in my mind in English was a bit funny at first as the translation of these into Dutch would soon follow by the actors and actresses.
Listening to the script in Dutch, I started to really like it. I ended up leaving with the thought that Dutch is a cute language that not enough people know. Maybe one day, should my travels bring me to the Netherlands again, I could learn some of it too. In the meantime, I enjoyed the show. I was here to support Anna Mae Bullock from Nutbush, Tennessee and her projects and that is what mattered to me most.
Anna Mae’s story
Once again, also Tina – De Tina Turner Musical is not just a tribute to one of the most successful artists of all time. To me it is the very personal story of little Anna Mae, her adversities, obstacles, and pain and how she, through her God-given talents, audacity, faith, hope, and love not just survives but literally thrives. It is also a praise of all people in her life who saw the real Anna Mae and her immense potential when others looked away. The difficult times are once again shown quite graphically. I will never get used to these scenes no matter how many times I watch this musical. Bring tissues. That is how real it gets and how amazingly gifted actors and actresses we see are. The story builds up and we still remember the little girl from Nutbush filled with a beautiful heart of big dreams but asking herself whether she should indeed leave and go out into the big world. We see her humble beginnings picking cotton.
Then, everything changes with Ike Turner who changed everything including her name to make her his own. Hard work, devastation, prayer, faith, hope and success follow breaking any barrier on the way. By the time the story is in Las Vegas, I do feel like dancing as I am celebrating Anna Mae’s freedom. It comes with a hefty price though and lots is still to come, the continuing strive for well deserved success, juggling a career overseas and family back home, and of course the then marketing executive Erwin Bach, arriving with suitcases and a big smile at the beginning of a love story that finds its crescendo as the musical turns into a mini rock concert.
As the audience got up on their feet and danced along Nurlaila Karim it became clear once again why I came to the Netherlands. To pursuit freedom and to find it there. Nurlaila’s performance is empowering because of her inner spirit and drive to dream. I saw Nurlaila smiling a lot lighting up her entire face giving her a glow during the musical especially when music comes on. I believe that Nurlaila is a born performer and truly enthusiastic about her craft. She embodies a love of life and performance that makes you smile and happy too. She is a great Tina because that is, in my opinion, exactly the Tina spirit that many of us catch – when watching the Anna Mae Bullock perform as a little girl at church or as one of the greatest performers of all time as Tina filling stadiums.
A cast that makes the story become real
Once again, the casting is great and each of the members deserves the entire Beatrix Theater clapping just for them. This time, I had the pleasure to see artists I had not known before. Aisa Winter as Zelma, Brandon Delagraentiss as Richard, Jeannine La Rose as Gran Georgeanna, Gaia Aikman as Alline, Juneoer Mers as Ike and Nurlaila Karim as Tina and many more. Beautiful, talented, and amazing acts in their own rights, for sure an amazing cast. My favorite scenes of the entire story are still the love story between a grandmother and her granddaughter little Ann, beloved sister Alline, who would always see her sister Anna Mae through everything. Protective yet powerfully standing up when needed, one could see that Alline was a rock in Anna Mae’s turbulent life and career. Whenever I think of Alline, I am certain that she still watches out for her sister today from the Great Beyond. I am so happy that we often see her character in the musical so audience members who might not have known her well have a chance to do so now.
In the musical, we see various versions of Anna Mae/Tina Turner from the teenager ready to leave her nest, in her famous stage clothes and wig, fighting for her life, and sitting on the floor chanting. Once again, this time in Utrecht, the star becomes human, a personality a person, and the story of little Anna Mae from Nutbush, Tennessee, USA touches hearts of the audience over again.
Tina in Dutch
So, would I recommend Tina in Dutch? Absolutely. Anna Mae’s story is not local. Her story is international. Anna Mae’s story touches your heart and your soul. No language skills needed. You will understand because you will feel the story. And yes, the Dutch version of the Tina musical, Tina de Tina Turner musical, absolutely worked for me. Perhaps the only times I missed English was when Zelma tells little Anna Mae: “you are always too loud”! and Anna Mae talking right back (go little girl…) and Ike tells Tina after recording River Deep Mountain High: “Won’t be a hit”. We know otherwise, right? Two pivotal moments in the show that help Anna Mae rise to the occasion not giving in but fighting for freedom. And that is what I feel when I am in the Netherlands.
Thank you, Anna Mae, for being you. And thank you, Netherlands, for the memories.
Barbara Bullock, M.F.A., spiritual writer
Copyright © 2020 by Barbara Bullock, M.F.A., spiritual writer
Have you been inspired today? www.BarbaraBullock.com
Photo credit Tina – De Tina Turner Musical and Barbara Bullock February 2020
Tina – De Tina Turner Musical Utrecht
Venue Beatrix Theater, further credits see London team
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical
Director: Phyllida Lloyd, Venue Aldwych Theatre, Choreographer: Anthony Van Laast, Music director: Thomas Kelly, Producers: Tina Turner & Erwin Bach, Joop van den Ende, Stage Entertainment, Tali Pelman, Book by Katori Hall
Disclaimer: This post states the author’s opinion only for a free personal blog that serves to inspire others and is not meant to represent Ms. Tina Turner, Erwin Bach, her associates nor the producers of Tina The Tina Turner musical/Tina De Tina Turner musical. No harm or infringement intended. Barbara Bullock.