I remember my friend, DJ, texting me while on a break at Kings Island during the first day of rehearsals for “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” He said a girl in his cast was so incredibly talented that he couldn’t believe it. That girl was Kayla Davion.
She spent several summers stealing the spotlight at the theme park while also lighting up the stage with her smile, personality, and charisma. And today, many years after she graduated from Ball State University and moved to NYC, I finally got to see her star in a Broadway show as the title character.
Her performance as Tina Turner in “Tina” is as good as anything you’ll ever see anywhere.
The show clocks in at a lengthy two hours and forty-five minutes. I think she might leave the stage for thirty seconds. But despite this grueling and demanding role, Davion never stops giving her whole self for the entire performance. I won’t link to it as I don’t want to encourage bootlegging, but if you search a little, you’ll likely find some performance footage from the curtain call mini-concert. I’ll remind you that this comes at the END of the show – and she still has the stamina to amaze, enthrall, and inspire the audience.
The man in front of me broke down in tears several times during the show. I get it; Tina Turner’s life story is tragic and uplifting and magnificent. Perhaps one of the greatest comeback stories in all of rock and roll, her life’s second act is legendary. Her resiliency is awe-inspiring. And this musical captures that spirit with gusto.
The music is outstanding, obviously. The performances by the entire cast are pitch-perfect, especially standouts like Natasha Yvette Williams (Tina’s mother) and, of course, Nick Rashad Burroughs as “Ike.” But this is Tina’s show – and she carries the dramatic weight as well as the bulk of the vocals.
It’s a Broadway show, so of course, all the technical elements are above board. And I’m happy to report that the seats were a little roomier than some of the other theatres nearby. There were a lot of latecomers, a lot of inappropriate cell phone usage, and an extraordinary amount of people struggling with their basic alphabet/number skills resulting in several re-seatings during the performance. But yet, even with all of the distractions, I was moved to tears – the kind of tears that come when you watch someone who deserves success achieve it . . . and then propel herself even higher. That’s the kind of transcendent performer Kayla Davion is. She soars above the clouds.
I cannot believe I get to call her my friend.
Tina is at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on 46th Street. Kayla plays “Tina” at the matinee performances. You can also see her in the Disney+ movie, “Better Than Nate.” Tickets and more information are available here.