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  • Writer's pictureJohn Gonzalez

Tina Turner musical is a rock concert with an inspirational story, says Broadway star

By John Gonzalez

PHOTO: Matthew Murphy

Ari Groover is not your normal theater kid.

You know the type: Vocal and dance classes, auditions, rehearsals, opening nights, theater parents, etc., etc. - all while still in high school. Then there’s regional theater, college and paying your dues before landing on Broadway.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, and raised in Atlanta, Groover participated in school plays and musicals, but she also loved to dance, DJ and create illustrations. Instead of entering a college specializing in theater, she opted to move to New York and study graphic arts.

Her idea of a career was to be a backup dancer for Bruno Mars, Chris Brown or Beyonce and create comic books on the side.

“But I guess the higher power had other plans,” she said.

Today she is one of two actors who play the role of the iconic Tina Turner in “The Tina Turner Musical.” Audiences can see her on the National Broadway Tour that makes a stop for eight performances Nov. 7-12 at DeVos Performance Hall as part of the 2023-24 season of Broadway Grand Rapids.

It’s a role that audiences love, and it’s a role that has stretched her as a person. It’s a huge leap from wanting to be a comic book artist and backup dancer to being the lead in a musical about one of rock music’s most powerful leading ladies.

Does it create pressure and anxiety in her life?

“It’s easy to feel the pressure and anxiety,” she said in a recent interview from a tour stop in Denver. “...but as I get a little bit older I just try to go with the flow.

“I sort of accepted taking on this leadership within this role, and this role is a very intense role. You don’t leave the stage, except for intermission. You’re on the stage the whole time, and you’re literally driving the ship.”

The show is nearly three hours long and follows the inspiring journey of a woman who broke barriers and became the Queen of Rock n’ Roll. The musical is set to a pulse-pounding soundtrack of her most beloved hits (“River Deep – Mountain High,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Private Dancer and “Proud Mary”), depicting her life from her humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her transformation into a rock 'n roll star who became one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time and won 12 Grammy Awards.

The musical, which opened on Broadway on Nov. 7 in 2019, is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Katori Hall and directed by the internationally acclaimed Phyllida Lloyd.

Groover knows the show intimately, and its intensity.

She joined the Broadway production in 2020 and portrayed Tina Turner's sister, Alline Bullock, and also played the role of Tina several times as an understudy.

Groover's journey with the Broadway Company of "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical" took an unexpected twist when a video of her went viral. The unforgettable moment that catapulted her into the spotlight involved none other than a wig.

"It flew off my head and went around the world. It went VERY viral," Groover chuckled.

In the unpredictable world of live theater, anything can happen, and Groover's wig mishap became a testament to the resilience and humor of a performer who takes the unexpected in stride. Her ability to embrace the viral moment with grace and a sense of humor only endeared her more to her audience.

Groover hopes audiences will embrace the spirit of the late Tina Turner when they come to see the show.

“You should definitely come, just to get away from the pressures of the world for almost three hours,” Groover said. “I think people are looking for something to give them inspiration to preserve in this life.”

Tina Turner’s life was all about overcoming life’s “trials and tribulations,” she added, “which resonates with a lot of people.”

“Not only do you get a rock concert,” Groover said, “you get an understanding of who she was as a person. And maybe you get an understanding of yourself; that you, too, can make it through any challenges and obstacles that have been thrown at you within your life.”

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