THE world is mourning one of its finest musical superstars after the death of rock ‘n’ roll legend Tina Turner on Wednesday.
And, there is an Australian actor, of Zimbabwean heritage, who is feeling the loss quite personally.
Her name is Ruvarashe Ngwenya.
She was born in Australia to Zimbabwean parents and plays the role of the superstar in ‘Tina – The Tina Turner Musical’ which runs until October.
It’s the Australian version of this Broadway hit from 2019 which was produced by Paul Dainty.
Ngwenya (30) has been hoofing it in bit parts and jazz clubs for years, but if one sees her performance in this musical, it’s likely they won’t forget her again.
Ngwenya described the eight-month-long audition process for Tina as “gruelling”.
“I did about 12 rounds of auditions and they were really intense. You’re dancing, you’re singing, you’re acting — they really required everything of me.
“I didn’t think I was going to book it (the show), and then as I kept progressing and the material got harder… I really found myself pushing and digging deep to find the actor in me.”
Tina is Ngwenya’s first lead role, after 10 years of performing in musicals.
“I’ve had a very fun journey being in ensembles and understudying.
“It’s humbling and it’s really hard work, but I think it has all built up my character to get me to where I am now.
“I’ve had time in the industry to work at it and perfect my craft, and now I’ve been offered this life-changing opportunity.
“It just feels like perfect timing.”
“I’ve learnt a lot about resilience and the power of spirituality, and how she (Turner) was able to harness her spirituality to overcome so much pain and trauma.
“She just proves that your mind needs to be a fortress if you’re going to overcome adversity, and so I take that on when dealing with a really hard role like this: I need to have a strong mind, a strong will, and the ability to keep going.”
Like Turner, who was raised Baptist and practices Buddhism, Ngwenya considers herself a spiritual person.
She grew up in a Christian family.
“It’s not manifesting!” she clarifies, laughing. “I believe you have to do the work. You have to face the difficulties life throws you head on and chip away at them.”
Spirituality has become a point of connection to Turner in preparing for the role, she says.
“I’m bringing my own soul and my own musical intuition … and my ability to interpret the music. I think that is meaningful and powerful to an audience – and that’s me, that’s not something you can be taught how to do.
“Everyone interprets it (the music) differently, and that’s the beauty of artists: They’re able to create magic out of the same song we’ve heard a million times.”
When the Australian production was announced, Turner, sent a message of support to the cast, echoing Ngwenya’s sentiments.
“She said, ‘I’m really excited for Ruva to take on the role of Tina; I’m sure she’s going to bring her own soul to the role.
“It was nice to have her mention me and say, ‘Girl, do what you gotta do with the role because it’s yours now.’”