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Ruva Ngwenya is ready to blow Perth audience's socks off as Tina Turner

Singer Ruva Ngwenya has been wowing audiences with her portrayal of the legendary singer Tina Turner, and this weekend Perth audiences will be able to see why she’s been getting rave reviews when Tina: the Tina Turner musical opens at the Crown Theatre.

The jukebox musical which opened in London in 2019 is based around the music of the iconic singer who passed away in 2023. It tells the story of her life, one that is filled with resilience and inspiration.

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The show features 23 hit songs including, Simply The BestWhat’s Love Got To Do With ItNutbush City Limits and Proud Mary, this smash hit musical has received 37 prestigious award nominations including Best Musical at the Tony Awards and Best New Musical at the Olivier Awards.

The last time OUTinPerth hung out with Ruva Ngwenya she was appearing as one of the hyenas in The Lion King, but over the last decade her career as soared with appearances in We Will Rock YouBeautiful: The Carole King MusicalRagtime and Moulin Rouge The Musical.

When we spoke Ngwenya was performing the final shows of the musical’s epic opening season in Sydney, and the singer and actor said she was feeling on top of the world as the curtain prepared to fall on the Sydney season and the cast and crew prepared to relocate to Perth.

“I’m so proud of the mountain that we’ve climbed here in Sydney, and all the work that has been out in. We started rehearsing the show in January and then we opened in May, and to just conquer what is undoubtedly the hardest role I’ve ever had to do in my life, to be here in the last week – I’m just really proud.

Ngwenya also shared she was really looking forward to the break she’d get to enjoy before the Perth season, describing the pace of the musical as extremely hard work.

As the central character Ngwenya is one stage for almost the entire performance, often only getting seconds for costume changes before having to hit cues and be back in the spotlight. She jokes that her only break is a cup of tea during the show’s interval.

Those lightning-fast costume changes also include wearing the different wigs that recreate Tina Turner’s iconic looks. Asked if she’s ever worried a wig might come off during those energetic performances the singer says she has a lot of faith in the pinning skills of the show’s hair and makeup team.

“It’s pretty crazy, but we’ve rehearsed the wig changes countless times, so I trust the girls, they know what they are doing with the wig pinning. But also – you’ve just got trust that it’s on, and if it feels loose, maybe we’re not doing the Tina ‘Proud Mary’ head shakes as hard as we normally do.”

The challenge of portraying Turner, whose live performances were iconic, is one of the big challenges Ngwenya had to face as she took on the show’s lead role.

“She’s an artist who was a master of performance, the entertainer. I look at Janet Jackson and Beyonce, and even Madonna, and know that they pull from Tina and what she was doing in the sixties. She was the first to do what she was doing up there on the stage with the dancing and creating a show.”

To prepare for the role Ngwenya watches thousands of clips of Turner’s live performances, and also researched the singer life and beliefs.

“She was just the embodiment of strength, and being able to manage life’s circumstances in a way that benefited her. There was a lot to learn from that, because I don’t know anyone who hasn’t done hard times – we can all learn from that.

“It was quite powerful to not only learn what happened to her and husband Ike, we all know that story – but to dive a little deeper into the psychology of it, and what she was going through mentally to cope with what she went through.” Ruva Ngwenya said.

Critics have described Ruva Ngwenya as “a revelation” in the show, describing her performances as “transcendent”. Perth audiences will get to experience that when the curtain rises on the Perth season on Sunday night.

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical opens at Crown Theatre this weekend, tickets are on sale now

Graeme Watson


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