Charismatic Broadway star Adrienne Warren is about to step into the stilettos of an icon: The 30-year-old Tony Award nominee is playing Tina Turner in the West End run of the new TINA: The Musical (performances begin March 21 at London’s Aldwych Theatre). “There’s a fine line between doing an impersonation versus ‘the essence of,’” says Warren. “And we’re focusing on the essence of Tina.”
You first met Turner at a workshop performance of the show in London. What was that moment like?
Girl. My heart’s beating fast just thinking about it. I didn’t want to meet her before the actual performance, and I didn’t actually look at her until I got to “Proud Mary.” And she was just singing along with me. My heart could have exploded.
What were you able to discuss with her while preparing for the role?
I got to talk to her about her process as a performer: What does she eat? Drink? How did she have so much energy onstage? She is unbelievably fit and such a ball of energy. I did boxing and jump-rope training — I wanted to be as strong as possible. Singing in someone else’s voice, dancing in someone else’s style, if you don’t do it correctly, you can injure yourself.
At what point did Turner’s music enter your life?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hear her music in the house growing up. I learned to shake my hips before I learned to tie my shoes because of Tina Turner. I just remember thinking, “I’ve never seen a black woman sing in this way, dance in this way, so unapologetically herself.” She made me think, “Maybe this is something I want to do in my life.”
What elements of her vocal style did you focus on?
She’s unbelievably rhythmic in her phrasing. It feels like she’s as much in the pocket as the drummer is. Her growls — it’s like they’re from the earth itself. I wanted to focus on finding that sound but in a way that was healthy and came from me, as Adrienne. She really has no bottom to her range and truly no top either — and she never really had any formal training. In a sense, you have to take everything you’ve learned and throw it out the window.