Kate Picone ’22
On the night of Sept. 26, 2021, the 73rd Tony Awards were held at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. This event celebrates the greatest accomplishments in theatre. Uunlike other award shows that applaud performances on the small screen and the silver screen, the Tonys are all about onstage performances. At this year’s ceremony, many outstanding productions and people were nominated and received awards, but among the most notable were Moulin Rouge! The Musical and Adrienne Warren for her role in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical won the Tony for Best Musical, Aaron Tveit won the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his part in the production, and Alex Timbers won Best Direction of a Musical for his guiding vision of the show. This musical is one of the most popular offerings on Broadway, and has been for quite some time because of its catchy songs, beautiful costume work, and eccentric themes. After a long season of COVID-19 halting all Broadway performances, it was the perfect musical to reignite the Broadway scene. The cast and crew’s exhilarating performances and tremendous efforts, some of which were featured at the Tonys, rightfully won them the aforementioned awards.
Another notable musical featured at the Tonys was Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, especially because of Adrienne Warren’s inspiring performance as Tina Turner. To say that she embodied the role of the famed singer is an understatement, as she worked extremely hard to capture her in both an entertaining and respectful way. The actress said in a CBS interview, “It feels like a blessing, and I’m happy to be able to do what I love.”
In the CBS interview, Warren also remarked that she felt a lot of pressure to do right by Turner and Turner’s fans with this production. The musical tells the story of Turner’s life, spanning from her turbulent childhood and being “discovered” to her treatment in show business and her terrible marriage to Ike Turner. Warren additionally expressed that the famed singer has always been an inspiration to her, explaining, “I’ve looked up to her for as long as I can remember…And I had never seen another woman sing rock’n’roll that looked like me.”
While the performance was outstanding, the production took a lot out of Warren physically. She had to train and work out so much that it resulted in injuries to her ankle and knee, as well as a herniated disc. The show began to consume her life, especially since she was onstage for nearly the entire production, performing 24 numbers.
The role also required a lot of emotional energy. Warren felt a responsibility to represent Black women in show business, not only through Turner’s experience, but also with regard to what Black women in theatre face today in 2021. She wanted to shine a light on Black performers and force the industry to notice them.
In striving to do so, her performance as Turner allowed Warren to find herself. For the first time in her career, she felt that she had accomplished the representation she and other Black creators deserved. Indeed, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical has definitely gotten the attention and recognition it deserves, not only through the awards it received at the Tonys, but also through the range of emotions viewers feel while watching the production.
It is such powerful viewing experiences as these that make live theatre so meaningful, and that make the Tonys such an important event.