The music “Simply the Best,” telling a story of triumph and a chance to play a black female lead, made casting “Tina” a “dream come true” for two actresses.
Not to mention the wigs.
“There’s this one for ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ which has blunt bangs and hits the shoulders. Rolls well!” laughs Zurin Villanueva, who co-leads with Naomi Rodgers in the jukebox musical Tina Turner which opens its national tour at the Providence Performing Arts Center on September 11.
The rigorous nature of the show — which runs through Turner’s hits like “Proud Mary” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero” — is so physically, vocally and emotionally demanding that it requires two actresses.
“They understood from the Broadway and London runs that the role can put an actor at risk for long-term issues,” Villanueva said.
“It’s something that’s never been done,” Rodgers adds. “It’s been a learning experience that has been both interesting and rewarding because we can encourage each other.”
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The creative team works one-on-one with the women to give their personal take on Turner, a powerhouse performer who first appeared on stage with her ex-husband, Ike, but went on to become a superstar and rock and roll spot. Hall of Fame, as a solo artist.
“They both make us feel seen. It’s like a master class. We always try to stay true to who we see Tina for ourselves,” Rodgers says. “We’re taking it out of Ike and Tina’s book.”
Like Turner herself, the women say it’s hard to be seen as a black woman on Broadway, where most roles are minor.
“I was looking for a role that demands everything from me, which is very rare for a black woman,” admits Villanueva, adding that, like Tina, “we seek our own individuality in moments. It’s been such a joy and helps you to create your role when you see the interpretation of another. It opens the mind. “
Together, they manage to bring the world of an icon to life, Rodgers acknowledges. The show, the women explain, is like a loud concert with Turner’s story woven around the songs.
“There is everything for everyone,” says Villanueva simply. “Anyone looking for encouragement, inspiration, emotional catharsis, this is it! It’s a rock concert, a party, a play, a religious service all rolled into one.
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Besides the music – Rodgers’ favorite number is “Better Be Good to Me” because, she says, it emphasizes Turner’s “grounding,” and Villanueva’s is “Private Dancer,” which she says illustrates the problem of people wanting a piece of performers – the couple admire the strength of the story, which focuses on Turner’s life after an abusive marriage.
“It’s Tina’s story in a way that’s never been shown, and it tells who she is after Ike,” notes Rodgers, who says Turner’s strength comes through in the songs and choreography. “In the show, we never sing to the gods.”
“TINA: The Tina Turner Musical,” which won 12 Grammy Awards, runs through September 18 at the Providence Performing Arts Center. For more information on tickets, go to www.ppacri.org.
If you are going to …
What: “TINA The Tina Turner Musical”
Where: Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset Street, Providence
When: September 11-18
Tickets: $57 to $109 (prices subject to change without notice)
Information: ppacri.org, (401) 421-2787