Recently, Karis Anderson took over the starring role of Tina Turner in Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, having previously covered the role and played Ikette Robbie and been in the ensemble. Karis shares the role with Elesha Paul Moses, and the musical is open at the Aldwych Theatre in the West End, with Karis performing on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings as well as the Thursday matinee. Prior to joining Tina – The Tina Turner Musical last year, Karis had previously toured as Diana Ross in Motown the Musical, and in 2018, she was in the cast of All or Nothing as PP Arnold. Having started her career as a singer, Karis is in the music group Stooshe, with their hit single Black Heart being a 2013 Brit Award nominee. Answering our questions, we found out from Karis about taking over the starring role of Tina Turner in Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, what Tina is like to portray and performing as part of Stooshe.
How has it been taking over the lead role of Tina Turner in Tina – The Tina Turner Musical and how is the run going so far?
It’s going great! It was always the goal from when I started as first cover so for it to actually be a reality now is really the best feeling. I’m having the best time in my dream role learning more every single show and finding ways to dive deeper into the story. Tina’s the epitome of strength and survival and they’re massive shoes to fill but it’s a complete honour.
What is it like sharing the role with Elesha Paul Moses and how is it working alongside the rest of the cast?
The role is an absolute beast vocally so it’s really a blessing being able to share the role doing four shows each rather than eight shows. To be honest, it’s actually a lot easier for me now than when I was first cover as some weeks I would be covering Tina, which would sometimes be four/five times a week, as well as doing my Ikette track. So, for example, I would sometimes have to do a Tina matinee show and then my Ikette track in the evening, or do my Ikette track for the matinee then a Tina show in the evening. It was relentless, I really don’t know how I did it lol. I always say the first covers have it much harder than the Tinas.
What do you enjoy most about portraying Tina Turner and how is it getting into character?
For me, playing Tina has begun to feel like an alter ego that has actually given me new perspectives of how to deal with things in my own life. From her strength to her spirituality, there are so many inspiring traits. For me, getting into character is all about getting myself centred. I do this by meditating on stage before the curtain goes up and I do it every single show. If I’ve been off for a while, I like to watch some Tina performance videos, just to remind me of little things and get me in the zone. But meditation and chanting is how I get into character.
What is it like performing the Tina Turner music and how is it seeing the audience response to the musical?
Oh it’s just wonderful. Music just isn’t the same anymore and to be able to relive real iconic music is the best feeling. Her performing style was one of a kind and it’s really an honour to be able to be a small part in keeping her legacy alive. The audience always go wild, especially at our Megamix at the end of the show. The whole auditorium is buzzing and the energy is unreal.
Having previously been part of the ensemble, do you remember how you felt finding out you’d be joining the show and how was it playing one of the Ikettes?
I mean, the show shot right to my number one ‘dream show’ as soon as it came out, so when I got the call from my agent saying I’ve booked it, I was overwhelmed with happiness and the tears were flowing! It was so much fun playing Ikette Robbie and being in the ensemble. You miss out on so much of the camaraderie as a leading lady so I was grateful to have that time before I stepped up to Tina. Being in the ensemble also helps me know the show a lot more and know what’s going on behind me now, plus I know when my girls need my energy and a little boost throughout the show as those Ikette tracks aren’t easy!
What is the production like to be part of and was there anything that originally drew you to the show?
To be able to shed light on Tina’s life and now keep her legacy alive is very special. From the LX to wigs to costumes to automation, every part of the show is top tier and it’s a really wonderful production to be a part of. For me personally, it was Tina’s story that led me to want to be a part of the show, I unfortunately can relate to her domestic violence abusive relationship so when I went through it I found myself longing for the strength Tina shows. I can also relate in turning her pain into purpose and not giving up no matter what she’s been through.
Why would you recommend booking tickets to see Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre and who do you think will enjoy watching it?
Because you will leave the theatre with your head held high full of inspiration and completely entertained. The show is for everyone! Even if you’re not a fan of Tina’s music, her story will touch your heart.
You portrayed Diana Ross in the UK Tour of Motown the Musical, what was she like to perform as?
Completely different to Tina! There were similarities in the sense of feeling controlling and then breaking free as an artist. But Diana’s mannerisms are the complete opposite to Tina’s. Of course there’s the voice, which is really high-pitched and breathy, Tina’s is low, twangy and grounded. I had a lot of fun playing Diana but she ruined my voice, ha! I had to have a break from singing for about a year once I came off tour as I had manipulated my voice so much to be higher and breathier that it took some time for me to heal and find my voice again, which took its toll on my mental health because I no longer had control over my voice, which was really scary. But the body is a wonderful resilient thing and now my voice is healthier and stronger than it’s ever been.
How did you find the experience touring with a theatre show and what are some of your stand-out memories from your time as Diana Ross?
I had a lot of fun on tour! Travelling around different cities and making new friends. I’m not sure how much I’d enjoy it now as I’m very much settled with my husband and in life, so I wouldn’t want to leave London for so long and don’t enjoy partying as much nowadays, but I’m glad I got to experience it at least once in life. It was fun being in new theatres every few weeks, but the travelling and finding new digs does take its toll. But I do believe you are closer as castmates on tour as you get to share digs and spend a lot more time together. That can be a blessing and a curse lol!
One of my stand-out memories was when we had an intruder who got into the theatre, past stage door and into my dressing room! Me, my dresser and my wiggie were going back to the room for a change between scenes and the door was locked, we were so confused until we heard ruffling – I had to go back on stage but when we came back, the door was back open, a man ran out, and from the state of the room and my clothes being on the floor, it looked as though he had locked himself into the room to try on the Diana costumes!!! It was honestly the scariest/funniest time ever, we were all in stitches and still to this day have no idea who it was.
In 2018, you were in the cast of All or Nothing in the West End as PP Arnold, how was this?
Yes! This show was so much fun, I really had the best time. Especially as I got to meet PP and spend some time getting to know her, which was wonderful, she is the loveliest woman. She also came to see Tina recently too. She was actually an original Ikette, which is obviously a big full circle moment for me. I had the best time on this run and I really don’t think there is any other show like it.
Having started your career as a singer in the girl band Stooshe, can you tell us about some of your favourite highlights from being part of the group?
The highlight for me was definitely our Brit Award nomination for Best British Single and our single being in the top five biggest songs of the whole year in 2013. To have been recognised on such a high level up against the likes of Adele was a real pinch me situation. We had so many amazing moments; I was travelling the world living the dream with my best mates! I also loved when we travelled to LA to record and film our videos. I could definitely live there lol.
How was it seeing the chart success of your single Black Heart and having it be nominated for Best British Single at the 2013 Brit Awards?
As I mentioned previously, it really was such a highlight for our single to be recognised as Best British Single. It was a dream come true and we never ever thought that we would reach that level as three girls from South London who just loved to sing. It really was proof that you can do anything if you work hard and stay dedicated.
Where does your love of performing come from and how did you get into it?
My love for performing comes from watching the old musical films with my mum as a kid. We would watch Singin’ in the Rain, Calamity Jane, A Chorus Line, Oklahoma! and CATS, all the classics over and over. I was stunned by the all-round talent and I knew I had to be on a stage one day. As much as I loved being in the band, I felt like I was holding myself back from doing other things like acting and dancing, and so musical theatre was always a goal for me.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
I particularly love our show, of course, and even if I wasn’t in it, it would still be my number one. But I really loved Memphis and, of course, The Lion King is iconic. I’ll never get tired of it. I really need to see more shows, it’s difficult to find time but I will make it my New Year’s resolution to get out and see more theatre! I really want to see The Drifters Girl, which is currently on tour, so I’ll be making a trip to see that soon.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I spend most of my free time relaxing as the show is so demanding. The days between shows I’m usually chilling with my wonderful hubby, we like to eat a lot and watch films. We’re also currently renovating a new home which takes up a lot of our time at the moment. I love to meditate and I have a beautiful healing room I like to spend time in and I also hold sound bath ceremonies (@healinghublondon). I LOVE travelling so any chance I can get some time off, I’m definitely taking a flight somewhere with sun, sea and sand.
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