Ruva Ngwenya and Nadia Komazec on celebrating Tina Turner

An exclusive inside look at TINA – The Tina Turner Musical, featuring insights from stars Ruva Ngwenya and Nadia Komazec on bringing Tina Turner’s incredible story to life.

Adelaide’s Festival Theatre is currently buzzing with excitement as TINA – The Tina Turner Musical opens its doors to audiences eager to experience the powerhouse story of Tina Turner. We caught up with two of the stars, Ruva Ngwenya, who embodies Tina Turner, and Nadia Komazec, who plays Tina’s loyal friend and manager Rhonda Graam, to discuss their roles and the impact of this iconic musical.

Ruva Ngwenya, with her dynamic portrayal of Tina Turner, brings the energy and resilience of the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll to life on stage. Meanwhile, Nadia Komazec captures the unwavering support and friendship of Rhonda Graam, a pivotal figure in Tina’s journey. Here’s what they had to say about their experiences and the significance of their roles.

TINA – The Tina Turner Musical is showing at Adelaide’s Festival Theatre

Ruva Ngwenya, who plays Tina Turner, has been gracing Australian stages since her early years playing the Melbourne jazz bar circuit at the age of 16. Her professional musical theatre debut came in 2013 as Shenzi in The Lion King.

Portraying such an iconic figure as Tina Turner must be exhilarating. How did you prepare for such an influential role?

Preparing for the role of Tina definitely took a lot of discipline and training to get my body and mind up to scratch to perform those massive numbers night after night! Vocal coaching, gym, dance classes, acting coaching, and of course, researching Tina, her life, and her performances!

Tina’s story is one of resilience and triumph. What aspects of her journey resonate with you personally?

I love her ability to utilise her strong positive mindset as a weapon and tool for overcoming adversity. Life is hard and will always bring us challenges. To study Tina’s approach through the spiritual realm of Buddhism was quite inspiring and reaffirms you can achieve anything if you have a healthy, strong mind.

Tina Turner’s music is timeless and crosses generations. How do you bring your own interpretation to her songs while staying true to her essence?

The essence of who I am as a performer and vocalist definitely shines through as I perform. I have a raw, joyful energy with strong RnB influences as a ’92 baby! My influences were influenced by Tina herself, so it’s a full circle mix of Black artistry on stage. It’s something you really need to see to experience.

Adelaide is eagerly awaiting the arrival of TINA – The Tina Turner Musical. What can audiences expect from your portrayal of Tina?

They can expect a high-energy, soulful, and genuine retelling of an iconic story. Tina’s music and life are celebrated and explored through fresh young Australian talent, with our nuances and soul keeping the show and story authentic to both Tina Turner and the actors sharing her story.

Tina Turner’s performances were legendary for their energy and charisma. How do you capture that essence on stage night after night?

Adrenaline, joy, and passion are the main drivers of my performance, and people who come to watch the show all seem to say that! High energy lives inside a joyful and passionate performance for me. When I am feeling it, it’s hard not to give everything I have! The band is rocking; I get to rock along with them!

The chemistry between Tina Turner and Rhonda Graam was pivotal in her career. How do you and Nadia Komazec bring that dynamic to life on stage?

I share some beautiful scenes with Nadia, who is an absolute gem to work with. These scenes are heartfelt and showcase the honest, straight-shooter energy these two friends shared. Funny enough, off the stage, I would say Nadia and I are much the same! Straight shooters with the best intentions and unshakeable determination and commitment to our craft.

Tina’s story is one of overcoming adversity. What message do you hope audiences take away from her story after watching the musical?

I hope people are inspired, uplifted, and motivated as a result of coming to the show. There is so much strength and beauty in Tina’s story and wonderful life lessons for everyone to take home with them. I also hope people are entertained and sing their hearts out to some of the world’s most iconic music! I will point the mic in your direction, and I hope to hear you sing!

Nadia Komazec, who plays Rhonda Graam, trained in Adelaide at her mother’s dance school, Barbara Jayne Dance Centre. Most recently, Nadia was nominated for a Green Room Award for her portrayal of Holly in The Wedding Singer (DVE). 

Rhonda Graam was instrumental in Tina Turner’s career and life. How do you approach portraying such a significant character?

When preparing for a role, I like to do as much research as possible to pay respect to the real person I am portraying. Rhonda Graam was a very private person, and so there is not much about her online, but I do know that she was a wonderfully strong, powerful, and fierce woman who stood by Tina “through thick and thin,” as I say in the show. I am very proud to represent her in this production.

Rhonda Graam and Tina Turner shared a close bond. How do you build and portray that relationship on stage?

In order to honour and best represent their unique bond, there must be mutual respect, care, and emotional investment that we share on stage together. When I am on stage as Rhonda, at times, I like to give an extra wink or a tighter hug when I feel like our Tina might need a bit of extra support for that final performance of the week. The sisterhood is very real.

Tina Turner’s story is one of resilience and friendship. How does Rhonda’s character contribute to that narrative?

In our show, Rhonda first comes into Tina’s life when she is employed by Ike Turner to be their manager. And so, she was there to witness everything that Tina went through and she supported her always, through the tough times and the good. Rhonda was a pillar of strength, a constant, a sister. She was even Tina’s maid of honour when she married her second husband, Erwin Bach. Their relationship was so special and long-lasting.

As an Adelaide performer, how does it feel to be part of such an acclaimed production coming to your hometown?

It is always very exciting to be able to perform professionally in my hometown. It’s nice to be able to show my loved ones what I have been getting up to over the years whilst I’ve been away touring. I am very grateful to be a part of this spectacular production and can’t wait to share it with Adelaide audiences.

Rhonda Graam witnessed Tina’s highs and lows. How do you navigate portraying those emotional complexities?

I believe the biggest necessity for us as actors is to be able to empathise. In doing so, I can really put myself in Rhonda’s shoes without judgment and therefore convey the complex emotions and reactions to what she witnessed and experienced.

The musical showcases the behind-the-scenes journey of Tina’s rise to stardom. What insights into Tina and Rhonda’s relationship do you hope audiences gain from seeing the show?

I simply hope that audiences can feel and see the unconditional love between them because their bond really was unbreakable. I also hope everyone has a friendship in their life like Tina and Rhonda had.

Rhonda’s character offers support and guidance to Tina throughout her career. How do you approach bringing authenticity to that supportive role?

In order to perform eight shows a week for months on end with authenticity embedded in every performance, it is so important that I approach each and every single show remembering that this audience is watching it for the first time. It might be my 355th show, but for someone out there in the audience, they might be learning about the many complex experiences and relationships that Tina Turner had in her life for the very first time. That is what grounds my performance in authenticity.

Image credit: Daniel Boud

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