5 Questions from Over the Pond: Ariana DeBose & Adrienne Warren

New York's Queen of Disco vs. London's Queen of Rock 'n' Roll!

Ariana DeBose & Adrienne Warren

We’ve decided to launch a new feature here at the New York Theatre Guide to take advantage of our special relationship with our London Theatre Guide sister site. It goes by the name of “5 Questions from Over the Pond” and it gives actors currently appearing in the West End and Broadway the opportunity to ask each other five questions of their own choosing about their respective shows, characters and anything else they might be curious about when it comes to living and working on the other side of the Atlantic.

Speaking of “special relationships,” it’s not just in politics that the US and the UK have been close allies. Indeed, in the theatre industry, no two cities have had such a generous exchange of productions and talent as London and New York – the two undisputed theatre capitals of the world. For decades and decades, the most successful shows burst out of their Broadway or West End bubbles and begin a reign of international dominance by venturing out to entertain audiences over the pond. An ever-growing trend has been the importation of hit London plays which often grab the top prize of “Best Play” at our Tony Awards, with recent examples including Red, War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and, of course, last season’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. On the other side of the coin, however, the Broadway musical is one of the West End’s most loved and most lucrative imports, with such recent Olivier Award-winning “Best New Musicals” as The Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots, and the musical juggernaut that is Hamilton.

In the same way, talent is shared on both sides of the Atlantic (thanks to Equity) as British actors frequently make their Broadway debuts and vice versa. And the most successful titles in theatre have both West End and Broadway productions running simultaneously.

In our “5 Questions from Over the Pond” features, we will sometimes give actors playing the same role in their respective London and New York productions the opportunity to quiz each other earnestly. But, for our first edition, we’ve decided to connect two Tony Award nominees who are both playing two Queens of the music industry. Ariana DeBose earned her first Tony nomination for her show-stealing portrayal of ‘Disco Donna’ in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, which continues to provide “Hot Stuff” on a nightly basis at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City, whilst Adrienne Warren is making waves over the seas with her tour-de-force performance in the titular role of London’s world premiere of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre. Ladies and gentleman, the Queen of Disco meets the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll!


Ariana DeBose in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Ariana DeBose is a triple theatre extraordinaire as the beating pulse of Summer. Alongside LaChanze as ‘Diva Donna’ and Storm Lever as ‘Duckling Donna’, Ms. DeBose gets to share Summer’s tale of triumphing over adversity and (much like Tina Turner) stepping out from the abusive shadow of a man. She is the stand-out performer, in our humble opinion, and her energetic stage presence is infectious. We look forward to seeing her sky-rocketing Broadway career continue to blossom.

Over the pond, Adrienne Warren is enjoying the role of a life-time and actually got to collaborate with the living legend herself in London. Her performance as Anna Mae Bullock and her eventual evolution into Tina Turner is as carefully nuanced as it is bold and brash. Simply put, it may well be “Simply the Best” musical performance I’ve witnessed in a very long time.


Adrienne Warren in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
(Photo by Manuel Harlan)

But, without any further ado, here are the five questions from London’s Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll for our very own Queen of Disco on the Great White Way…

  1. ADRIENNE: What preparation is required to be the Queen of Disco?

ARIANA: The preparation required for this role definitely feels ongoing. It’s not like you just go take extra voice lessons to sound like her and you’re done. Finding Donna’s voice in your voice and then doing it 8 times a week takes lessons 2-3 times a month, and that’s basically the template for the other skill sets I use in the show (dancing, acting, fight choreography, speech pattern manipulation, etc.). Now just to prep for the show night to night, I think I arrive to the theatre an hour or so early. Start with tea, move into a yoga based warm up whilst vocalizing— then I gotta beat the face! Etc. Etc.

  1.  ADRIENNE: There is “Duckling Donna”, “Disco Donna”, and “Diva Donna”! What was the process in creating Donna with two other actors?

ARIANA: We tried to focus on body language to pull it together. Little quirks we could all keep in our wheelhouse. Now that we’ve been doing the show for a while, it begins to feel like old hat we all know it so well!  Funny, how we carry a whole other person with us? Once I found my Disco in my body, I carry her with me, I think the other women would agree with me. 

  1. ADRIENNE: Part 1 - What is your favourite part about portraying Donna?

ARIANA: My favorite part about playing Donna?!!! There are a lot of things I really enjoy, but my favorite thing would be meeting all of Donna’s fans who’ve come from all over the world to see the show! Their love for her is really beautiful and I love hearing their stories about her.

           ADRIENNE: Part 2 - What have you learned from this journey thus far?

ARIANA: Perseverance is the only way! Work that requires this much discipline is never easy, but always worth it!

  1. ADRIENNE: How does it feel to be a Tony Award nominee?

ARIANA: Downright awesome!!! As you know, it was such dream of mine, so to see it accomplished now is something I’m extremely proud of! But beyond that, I’m still the same little queen who lives Mamma Mia! and takes out her trash, ya know?!

  1. ADRIENNE: If given the chance, what Tina Turner/Donna Summer mash-up do you think we should do?

ARIANA: You know what, I have an idea — probably something that has an epic finish with “Proud Mary” & “Last Dance” — let’s save it as a project for when you come home! Love you, sis! ❤️

To read Adrienne’s answers to Ariana’s 5 Questions from Over the Pond, visit our London Theatre Guide HERE.

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical Tickets are available now for performances through to August 18, 2019.