Tina: – The Tina Turner Musical is a true triumph! Part Broadway musical, part R&B/rock concert, and all heart, it is truly an evening of theater you do not want to miss. You just can’t help singing along and dancing in your seat!
Part of the Broadway series, this high-energy show is appearing at the Kimmel Cultural Camps’ Academy of Music through Sunday, December 4.
This is an extremely powerful and emotional musical with an extremely talented cast led by two women (on alternating nights) who each have a beautiful and electrifying stage presence. Wow!
The role of Tina Turner is so physically and mentally exhausting that it is shared by two actresses, Naomi Rodgers and Zurin Villanueva. They each have their own nights to bring the legendary singer, songwriter, and icon to life, and they seize the opportunity to take our theater experience to new heights.
The many musical numbers are a true walk down memory lane and are intermingled with Tina Turner’s biography of hardship, family troubles, motherhood, domestic abuse, and her rise to fame – and she did it twice.
The two dozen or so songs include Proud Mary, River Deep- Mountain High, Private Dancer, What’s Love Go to Do with It, We Don’t Need Another Hero, and Simply the Best.
This is the story of an extremely talented singer and songwriter who endured great personal sacrifice and difficulties but was resilient enough to never give up; providing vital life lessons for all of us.
Tina – The Tina Turner Musical originally opened on Broadway on November 7, 2019, and was nominated for 12 Tony® Awards, including Best Musical. The production reopened at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on October 8, 2021, following the 18-month industry-wide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Naomi, tell me what you love about this show.
Naomi Rodgers: Playing this role is exhilarating, and empowering, and is something that I enjoy doing every chance that I get. I don’t see myself getting tired anytime soon.
Zurin, how much of Tina’s work did you know?
Zurin Villanueva: I knew a chunk of it; I knew all of the old standbys. I knew more than I thought I knew, but just from growing up in the nineties. So , it was really a pleasure to find the B-side tracks and find the little cracks and really start listening to musical specifics I had never delved into before, and really seeing why she was a such musical genius in her recording.
What are some of the highlights of this show for each of you?
Zurin Villanueva: I enjoy so many things, but I think I enjoy River Deep – Mountain High; it is very high on my list of enjoyment. It’s just a beast of a song, and standing there flat-footed and letting it all come out of your soul is just the most beautiful feeling. I also love Simply the Best because I love to sing with the audience.
I was not used to it at first. I’m a theater girl, I’m an actor. We do the fourth wall, we put it up. But in this show, we get to take it down and I’m really getting used to and loving playing with the people, playing with the audience, and really getting into that concert mode I get to play a rock star. Who does that? Not many of us.
Naomi Rodgers in Tina – The Tina Turner Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
And your highlights and stand-out moments?
Naomi Rodgers: That’s going to be the Megamix; when we do the extra two songs at the end. I find joy in just seeing everyone’s faces, standing up and being able to touch them, reach out to them. Really just being able to use everything that I’ve learned about Tina and her mannerisms, and how she actually really, really connects with the audience because she loves her fans and she loves to perform.
Let me tell you something, Tina Turner puts on a show. I think I found the fun that she found in it every single time. I think I found it. Maybe I might have to talk to her one day and say, “Hey, is that what you felt?” But I’m enjoying that so much.
How emotional is this show? Her songs and music itself, to me, puts me back to where I was when I enjoyed a certain song. Music is emotional for most of us.
Naomi Rodgers: Oh my gosh, the audience cannot stop singing. Every song in this show is a song that your mom played, your dad played, grandma or you played. You said you’re going to go get your soda pop, it really brings you back. I remember watching because I got the opportunity to be able to watch Zurin for a while in the audience so I would be able to see the audience’s reactions.
Every single time they sang or they did a song that everyone knew, one of them it’s What’s Love Got to Do with It? or no, it’s Let’s Stay Together. People scream when they hear that song. They scream, start clapping and they start singing along. It’s such a feel-good, it’s really one of those. As you said, it really transports you. I saw one lady, she just closed her eyes and started listening. It’s one of those moments that definitely transports you to a different place and time
Zurin Villanueva: Yes. And then on top of that, her story and the relationship she was going through at such a young age. And having children and then marrying Ike and falling into that relationship with him, takes you through an emotional journey that a lot of the parts you might not know, and then you’ll learn them. But the songs and where they’re placed support her story perfectly. And so, we are really put on an emotional journey, going from beginning to finish. It’s a huge rollercoaster. And me loving the drama, I love it so much. I love it.
What is it like for each of you to share a role? Because I think that’s pretty unique.
Naomi Rodgers: Yes, it is definitely something that I think they really thought about and they needed it. This show is worth putting on the tour and being shown to the world, but also it is worth the energy that the Tinas have to bring every night. For me and Zurin to alternate and to be able to have certain days off is amazing.
Zurin Villanueva: Yeah, especially on tour, it is way more difficult to do any show on the tour that is on Broadway. Because of the moving, a lot of the time if it’s a one-week stint like we’re doing here in Baltimore, our day off has been our travel day. So it is of the utmost importance that we do have two Tinas in this show. Because we do not leave the stage, two hours and 45 minutes, we’re in it the whole time, so we need to make sure that we rest so we can give 1000 percent.
What does each of you see as the messages and the life lessons from Tina’s story and from the show?
Zurin Villanueva: Well, definitely one of them is nothing’s over till you say it’s over. She had a completely new career in her 40’s. It was completely unheard of, especially for a woman of color, especially for a black woman in the business. Everyone’s young and cute and switching around and blonde, so the fact that she was able to do that and have her number one at that age, she completely changed it around. And she did so because she would not quit because she kept going until she found someone who believed in her, someone who wanted to record with her.
Because she was having a lot of trouble finding someone in the States, she went to the UK, she went to Europe because they were always big fans of hers. And they were like, “Yes, I want to record with you,” and she became a hit.
What are the downsides and the upsides of a tour like this?
Naomi Rodgers: I think Zurin kind of touched on that a little bit with being that we travel a lot and that it’s a traveling tour. And it’s not one of these tours where there’s like two weeks or a month we’re sitting down, we’re moving every week. We just left, where did we just go? Cincinnati, no, Buffalo. I don’t know, it’s so fast. Everything has just been so fast. So, for the last three weeks, we’ve just been on go, on go, on go.
I think that has to be the hardest thing about it, is that you really can’t focus and settle into a city. You have to settle into your Airbnb at the moment and then get right back into work. But also I feel like that’s just the tour life and it makes me feel a little bit more like Tina.
Do you try to find a coffee shop or a bookstore or something in each city that you can kind of call your own? Could you write a little travel guide if you had to?
Zurin Villanueva: Well, I do, I follow the food. I follow the food. I’m a big fan of the show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. On my last tour, I went to one spot in each city. Just to get something that’s specific to the city or something, just where the locals go just to get some good food. Because at the end of the day, that’s usually all I need, is a good plate and then I’ll be all right and I’m good for the next show.
Naomi Rodgers: I’ve been on the road for the past five years. I have not sat down except for when the quarantine was going on, so that was the first time I sat down and lived my life. So ever since I was 18 I’ve been on the road. I’m a foodie as well, but lately, I have been getting into every city that I go to I want to try the best Spanish grilled octopus. So that is my journey, I have a travel guide for that in every city. In every city, I know exactly where the octopus is, where it is and where’s the best.
What would you say is the dream that you had of your career five, 10, 15 years ago, or even as a young girl versus the reality of what you’re doing? Is it better? Is it different?
Zurin Villanueva: It’s hitting on target. It’s right on target, I couldn’t believe it. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Nala, and right before the pandemic I was in Lion King and I got to do Nala, so I was like, well. I’ve always wanted to play a rock star ever since I saw Josie and the Pussycats, so it’s really good to be doing Tina.
I did not imagine in my wildest dreams that I would actually do it at this scale. I thought maybe if I was lucky, I would get a cute little cameo in some television show somewhere. But this, where it’s just you, rocking it out, has just been just the biggest, sweetest surprise of my career.
Naomi Rodgers: I grew up in the church, so I’ve always enjoyed singing, but I never knew or never thought that my drama side, would turn into my mom taking me to a theater show, and having me audition the next week, would become the thing that I do for the rest of my life.
It shocked me to know how fast everything was moving for me in my life, but everything is always intentional and everything has intentions, and I believe that this is going to get me and Zurin where we’re really going to go. It’s a dream come true. Yes, this is the dream role, but this is one of those things. I always say, “Where would I be if I didn’t have Tina? If I didn’t have this show?” I’m grateful that I get to do this, and that it can get us the TV series regular that we want.
Why do you each recommend that my readers come to see this show in Philadelphia or at other stops on the tour?
Zurin Villanueva: Oh yes, you have to come because you have to feel the magic. You have to get electrified. You have to remember that you are driving this ship. You have to be emboldened. You have to feel, you have to come and get a good cry. There are so many things to do when you come to this show.
Naomi: Rodgers: I’m going to have fun with what I’m about to say. I would love for your readers to bring sunglasses. And what I would love for them to do is during “Simply the Best”, when I sing, when I start singing Simply the Best I’d like people to put on their sunglasses. I will not be frightened; I will not be scared. Because there are going to be bright lights that shine in your face in the next 2.5 seconds and you have no clue it’s coming. But I feel like it’s such a moment and it’s so cool that you just get to see with some sunglasses. All you need is sunglasses. It’s so good! It is so good. So that’s all, come see Tina.
For tickets and information to see Tina – The Tina Turner Musical in Philadelphia go to: kimmelculturalcampus.org
For information about the Tina – The Tina Turner Musical Tour go to: https://tinaonbroadway.com/