I am Tina. (Courtesy photo)

The new theater season has already begun with plenty of options throughout the DMV if you’re one of those who enjoy seeing a good performance on stage. 

And because this writer’s particularly fond of shows that have singing, dancing and music, the delightfully entertaining production “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” counts as one that you simply do not want to miss. 

The Broadway at the National production, which opened Oct. 4 continues through Oct. 23 at the National Theatre in Northwest. And while it’s recommended for anyone 14 years old or older, you may want to grab a bite to eat before showtime. The musical, with an intermission, runs just over 2 ½ hours. But it’s worth it! 

“Tina” serves as the inspiring journey of a woman who broke barriers and became the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The musical, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Katori Hall and directed by Phyllida Lloyd, features Turner’s much-loved songs – from “Proud Mary” to “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

Most impressive about this musical, for which Adrienne Warren won her first Tony Award for Best Performance in a Leading Role in a Musical in 2021, remain the two actors who share the lead as Tina Turner in this touring production: Naomi Rodgers and Zurin Villanueva. 

The two women alternate days and performances after it became apparent that the demanding role required the services of two actors. Both said they remember the challenges they faced in building up their reserves, particularly physically, as they began rehearsals. 

“We started with the creative team who told us to get used to what it would take to do a show like this,” Rodgers said. “We started with choreography – no music, no scripts – and we worked on our stamina. We wanted to tell the story truthfully because it is a beautiful story. But taking it on tour required us to dig deep without technical assistance.” 

“Tina Turner had a relationship with her audience. Her music wakes people up. And to be able to sing those songs with everyone in the audience singing with you, it’s just great. There’s an energy that ripples throughout the theater,” said Rodgers, who grew up singing in church and said she’s always ready to go on stage and take on the role of storyteller. 

Villanueva, a graduate of Howard University, said being cast for the role provided her introduction into the many challenges Turner experienced as her career moved forward. 

“Since joining the tour, I have been inducted into the details of Tina’s work – her diction, her songs, her movements,” she said. “I didn’t grow up on her music and so I had to go back and study her. I’m really enjoying looking into the eyes of people in the audience – the call and response thing we do with them. It’s unlike anything I have ever experienced.”

“An older woman rushed to the stage one night like she was at a real concert and reached out to touch my hand – like I was a real rock star. That was so cool,” Villanueva said. 

Rodgers said she most enjoys the comradery that has evolved within the cast. 

“As much as I appreciate those who come to see us perform, my cast members are really the audience that I focus on the most,” she said. “We’ve put in so much work and time and energy. I remember the first time we did the entire show in rehearsal and the applause that we received from the crew and others – that was a feeling that I will never forget – the love and support we received.”  

Villanueva remembered the first time she knew she wanted to become a thespian. 

“I was about 7 and we had a neighbor who had a role on ‘Sesame Street,’” she said. “After seeing them perform, while I didn’t exactly know what an actor actually did, I was hooked. The green-eyed monster had me. It just felt right. And I’ve never looked back.” 

Go to www.broadwayatthenational.com for more information.

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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