Governor's School for the Arts alumna and Norfolk native Adrienne Warren is an international superstar. Adrienne has starred in many Broadway productions and earned a Tony nomination for her role as Tina Turner in the hit "Tina."
(jazz piano music)
♪ When I was a little girl I had a rag doll ♪
♪ Only doll that I've ever owned ♪
- I grew up singing in church.
I went to St. Thomas AME Zion Church in North West Virginia
and I grew up singing with my dad.
- So just like Tina Turner's real life story,
you too grew up singing in the church.
- That's definitely when the music bug hit.
The theater bug came a little later, around six years old.
- [Lisa] Adrian netted her first Tony nomination in 2016
for her role as best featured actress
in the musical Shuffle Along,
and in 2020
as best actress for her role as Tina Turner.
♪ Left a good job in the city ♪
♪ Working for the man every night and day ♪
♪ And I never lost a minute of sleep ♪
♪ When worrying 'bout the way that things might have been ♪
- A lot of people forget that
I'm singing 20 plus songs a night
and between every dance number I'm doing fight choreography,
because of the domestic violence within her life
which is also presented in the show as well.
- So how did you train
for something so physically demanding?
- I would jump rope to Proud Mary,
to the beat of the music.
My trainer would make me do it over and over again.
And also, I trained in boxing for months.
I just tried to be as strong as I possibly could
as Adrienne to be the best Tina I could possibly be.
- [Lisa] And according to her mom,
being the best she can be
is a goal this Hampton Roads native has been shooting for
- My husband would sit her in her little seat
when she was an infant
and he would play jazz
and we noticed that she could bounce right on rhythm.
- My parents are huge music fans,
so I listened to everything from Bob Marley to Anita Baker
to Elton John, to Tina Turner,
to Yolanda Adams, Gospel.
- My husband sings and when Adrian was little,
instead of going to bed,
she would lay down on the steps and listen.
And so he finally told her well come on,
since you're up anyway.
He taught her one of the songs that he was preparing
and when they sung it together in church,
I just balled.
I knew she was talented when she could harmonize
I didn't know what to do with that talent
but I felt like she had something
and I was all about let's get her in dance,
let's get her involved.
And she just blossomed.
- I had been dancing and I'd always sung
and I was in Hurrah player,
so theater is really in my bones at that point
and I thought,
what better way to continue nurturing this talent
but to go to Governor's School and actually get
the training I need to take this further in my life.
And it changed my life.
I learned everything I could have possibly needed to learn
to be the performer I am today,
I learned at Governor's School.
When you go into the rehearsals
you're held at the standard of a young professional.
And I think because of that,
I just fell even more so in love with the arts
even more so in love with theater
and musical theater specifically.
Learning to be a strong ensemble member
is like the first amazing lesson you could possibly learn
in musical theater.
- Because she was good at being an ensemble member,
I think it's also what helps her being a good lead.
And you could see that in her work in Tina
and the other things where she's been really chief
as a solidifying influence on her cast members.
♪ All the children say ♪
♪ We don't need another hero ♪
♪ The way home ♪
- [Lisa] So what made you decide
Marymount Manhattan College?
- It was New York City for me.
It was just about being here.
My mom took me to New York the first time,
10 years old,
and the electricity,
just how vibrant the city was,
it just ignited me in a way that I'd never felt before.
♪ It was so entertaining ♪
♪ When the boogie started to explode ♪
♪ I heard somebody say ♪
♪ Burn, baby burn ♪
♪ Disco inferno ♪
- [Lisa] You've been performing in New York City
for over a decade now and experiencing phenomenal success.
But you say a lot of it came quite unexpectedly.
- George C. Wolfe is the director of Shuffle Along
and so we workshopped that show for months
without having any idea what we were working on.
I think there's a lot of beauty in
just kind of showing up in the room and doing your best
and then kind of watching it grow
and evolve into this masterpiece that was Shuffle Along.
I sang two songs in the show
and was on stage for maybe not even 15 minutes.
So I thought there's no way for me
to possibly get a nomination.
This is just nuts.
And I saw my face pop up and my name being called
and I just screamed very loud
and probably woke up everyone in my apartment building.
And I just thought, how is this possible?
It was the year of Hamilton,
so it was like a crazy year for Broadway in 2016.
(upbeat classical music)
I was asked to go to London
to start doing a workshop for the show.
I didn't even think that I would end up
doing the role really.
I thought they'd hire Beyonce.
- And after all that rehearsal,
you finally get to perform
and it's in fun of Tina Turner.
What was it like for you?
- I didn't look at her the entire presentation
until I got to Proud Mary
because I thought if I don't move forward this project
I want to at least be able to tell my unborn children
or grandchildren at some point,
that this happened.
And I looked at her
and she was smiling and singing along with me.
And it was just such a special moment
because it gave me permission to just be myself
and enjoy this presentation.
Enjoy this moment.
And at the end of the presentation
I just fell at her feet and like bowed
and just started crying
and she was unbelievably gracious and loving.
I'm so grateful for her,
and she's taught me so much.
♪ We're rolling ♪
♪ Rolling ♪
♪ Rolling on the river ♪
I have a non-profit Broadway Advocacy Coalition
that does a lot of work in social justice
and racial justice
through the theatrical communities and beyond.
To get to be of service in this time is a blessing.
It's something that I don't take lightly and it's so needed
and I'm grateful to be an amplifier in that way.
I feel like I've been placed on this planet
to tell the stories of our ancestors.
I'm a storyteller
and I'm grateful for the biographical work
that I've gotten to do this far.
And I hope to do more in the future.
♪ Oh how I love you baby ♪
♪ Baby, baby, baby ♪
♪ Simply the best ♪
♪ Come on put your hands together, come on ♪
♪ Better than all the rest ♪
♪ Sing it, come on ♪
♪ Better than anyone ♪
♪ Alright ♪
♪ Anyone I've ever met ♪
♪ Stuck on your heart ♪
♪ I hang on every word you say ♪
♪ Tear us apart ♪