By Adam Cohen . . .
True talent, it is said, overcomes all obstacles to shine abundantly.
There were no obstacles standing in the way of Adrienne Warren (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical) and her friends at Bryant Park’s Picnic Performance. The concert on a brilliant patch of green, abutting the New York Public Library and in the shadow of Broadway theaters was simply amazing.
Warren has a glorious voice. She adroitly commands the stage, making songs her own with a lush, soulful, beautiful sway. On a glorious summer night, the passion of luminous Broadway performers teased us with what’s to come.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is a fitting touchstone for Warren. It allows her to fully embody Turner and give an impassioned award-winning performance. One wholly believes she is Tina as she masters the growl, strut, determination, guts, grunts, and rasp. It is an indelible performance that leaves the audience wanting more. And in her concert on July 30, Warren delivered a masterclass in warmth, serenity, and command. She is a performer of boundless joy and effervescence.
Springing onto the stage, she greeted the crowd along with her parents and the bad; launching into “Rolling in the Deep,” Warren’s yearning soulful approach to the song cowing any lyrical mawkishness.
Generously sharing the stage and concert, Warren introduced the two actors who joined her in Tina as Turner’s sons (Matthew Griffin and Jhardon Milton). Together they sang “Simply The Best” offering gracious harmonies. Commenting affably, Warren said there are “people you call family…unlike any other cast, I’m very grateful” and they launched into “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”
Warren fully owned “Breathe” from In the Heights finding new pathos and richness within. She also told the audience to “check in with yourself and take a second.” Griffin and Milton joined her again for a tender rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By.” She ceded the stage to them for “You’ve Got a Friend.”
Warren’s best friend Ashley Loren (Moulin Rouge!) joined in on a stirring rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that was full of potent beauty.
Amber Iman told a story of Warren opening her home to her for pound cake in preparation for another concert. Iman then slayed the audience with a stirring performance of Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband.” Together, Warren and Iman serve as co-founders of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition. And their voices joined seamlessly and gracefully for an interweaving of “Story of Tonight” and “You Will Be Found.”
Warren rounded out the evening with “She Used To Be Mine” from Waitress and a joyful “I Want To Dance With Somebody.” She reminded the audience to “make new dreams and go after them. Don’t be who you were before.” And concluded this amazing evening with “Home” from The Wiz and Turner’s classic “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”
The concert is a fitting venue for the plethora of Adrienne Warren vocal giftedness. Her warm presence, enthusiasm, lush voice are formidable. And one hopes some production team provides her the role to fully embrace her many talents and craft.
The concert stream can be found at bryantpark.org/picnics