fb-pixelBoston Arts Academy to perform tribute to Tina Turner this weekend Skip to main content

Boston Arts Academy honors Tina Turner with ‘Simply the Best!’ stage show

"Simply the Best! The Life and Legacy of Tina Turner" premieres at BAA Thursday night.Boston Arts Academy

The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll is getting her due at the Boston Arts Academy.

The BAA student show entitled “Simply the Best! The Life and Legacy of Tina Turner,” which takes audiences through Tina Turner’s illustrious yet turbulent career, runs from Thursday through Saturday at the school’s main auditorium. Located in the Fenway neighborhood, BAA is Boston’s only public high school for visual and performing arts. With 40 students working on stage and behind the scenes, the production features performances of the singer’s best-known hits, accompanied by live music, backing singers, lights, and an elaborate stage setup.


“If you’re going to go to a Tina Turner concert, we want to re-create that for you,” said William McLaughlin, the show’s director and chair of the dance department at BAA. “We don’t want people to come and just sit and watch, we want it to be participatory.”

The Turner tribute comes less than a year after the singer’s death and ties into Women’s History Month in a meaningful way, Maura Tighe, artistic director at BAA said,

“When Tina passed, we thought this would be a great opportunity to really hold her up as a feminine icon of resilience and power,” she said.

Each of the show’s three sections focuses on a distinct part of Turner’s story: the Ike and Tina Turner period, her soundtrack and movie work, and her ‘90s “‘Simply the Best’ era,” as McLaughlin called it. Deurick Gomes and Mecca Williams, both seniors at BAA, said preparing for the show taught them a lot about Turner’s discography and her life story.

“I didn’t know too much about Tina, but I still knew of her and her music,” said Gomes. “When we started doing this show, I really started getting into her story more and started to understand what she was about — the image and power and responsibility she held in the music industry.”


Williams and Gomes said the show had made them deeper fans; both were struck by her legacy as a person and the perseverance she displayed throughout her life — from escaping an abusive marriage to redefining herself as an artist.

“I had a conversation the other day, someone asked me ‘Why Tina?’ and they said something like she’s crazy,” said Williams. “I was like well, the reason why she is the way she is is because of the industry — that’s how they made her.”

Portraying Turner on stage isn’t easy, not just because of the vocals, but her larger than life stage presence. Williams, who hopes to pursue a career as a vocalist, said getting out of her shell was the toughest challenge, but necessary if she wanted to become Tina.

Mecca Williams, a senior at BAA, will be one of three lead vocalists performing Tina Turner's work.Boston Arts Academy

“I was at home listening to ‘Proud Mary’ and trying to emulate her,” she said. “Just going home, practicing how I’m going to dance in heels, practicing how I’m going to sing in heels. Trying to build that character of Tina helped me a lot.”

“I connected with Tina and her story because she brought a new sound to the industry,” said Gomes, who sings backup vocals in the show. ”She was very bold with her sound, and she was very confident in herself and the music she was making.”

On Thursday, before the first performance, a now sold-out fundraiser will be held at House of Blues hosted by the Boston Arts Academy Foundation, where this year’s graduating class will be awarded $250,000 in scholarship funds.


“I believe that in the city of Boston, talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not,” said Denella Clark, President and CEO of Boston Arts Academy Foundation. “I’m so grateful to all of the donors who’ve contributed to this event because they’re making opportunities possible for our kids.”

“Simply the Best! The Life and Legacy of Tina Turner” March 21-23. 174 Ipswich St., Boston. For tickets, visit bostonartsacademy.org

Henry Bova can be reached at henry.bova@globe.com.