Nkeki Obi-Melekwe, who can currently be seen in the new Off-Broadway musical Alice by Heart, will succeed Tony nominee Adrienne Warren in the title role of London's Tina — The Tina Turner Musical.
A 2018 graduate of the The University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater and Dance, Obi-Melekwe will make her West End debut beginning April 15 at the Aldwych Theatre. Warren, who has played the title role since the show’s world premiere, will lead the Broadway production, which will open in the fall.
In a statement Obi-Melekwe said, “I am beyond excited! To be coming to London to join the West End community is one thing, but to be taking on this extraordinary role is something else. Tina means so much to so many people, including me, and I do not take this opportunity lightly. I hope I can make her as proud as I am to be playing Tina Turner. I can’t wait to get started.”
Tina Turner added, “I know just how extensive the search was to find her, and I am delighted that Nkeki will be joining our Tina family. Her raw talent is clearly extraordinary and her determination and spirit are second to none. Audiences at the Aldwych will be amazed. I look forward to welcoming her to London!”
Director Phyllida Lloyd stated, “This role must be one of the most demanding in world theatre and requires a human being of exceptional gifts and massive inner strength. Nkeki has both. Nkeki just has that THING—ferocious power—without which you can’t even think of playing Tina.“ Ashley Zhangazha, who was last onstage in Death of a Salesman at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, will also join the company April 15 in the role of Ike Turner.
The second year company will begin performances March 19: Aisha Jawando will play the role of Tina at some performances each week, Irene-Myrtle Forrester will play Tina’s grandmother GG, Howard Gossington will play record producer Phil Spector and lyricist Terry Britten, Francesca Jackson will continue to play Ike and Tina’s manager Rhonda Graam, Jammy Kasongo will play Tina’s father Richard Bullock and Tina’s first love Raymond Hill, Edward Bourne will play record company marketing manager Erwin Bach, and Oscar Batterham will play Tina’s manager Roger Davies.
Maria Omakinwa will play Tina’s mother Zelma until June 22, when Madeline Appiah will rejoin the company in that role.
The featured performers will be joined by ensemble members Daniella Bowen, Chloe Chambers, Joelle Dyson, Sia Kiwa, Lejaun Sheppard, Kibong Tanji, Cameron Bernard Jones (who also plays Tina’s son Craig), and Ashlee Irish (who plays Tina’s son Ronnie and Joseph Richardson), and swings Gavin Alex, Derek Aidoo, Joshua Da Costa, Amandla Elynah, Hannah Jay-Allan, Angela Marie Hurst, Leisha Mollyneaux, and Samuel J. Weir.
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Katori Hall with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, the musical is choreographed by Anthony van Laast, with set and costume designs by Mark Thompson, musical supervision by Nicholas Skilbeck, lighting by Bruno Poet, sound by Nevin Steinberg, projection design by Jeff Sugg, and orchestrations by Ethan Popp.