Myra Lucretia Taylor plays Gran Georgeanna, the wise, loving, spiritual grandmother of rock icon Tina Turner in the acclaimed Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The veteran actor, whose additional Broadway credits include Nine, Macbeth, Electra, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Mule Bone, and A Streetcar Named Desire, was also seen in School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play, which was subsequently broadcast on PBS. Taylor and her fellow classmates picked up the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance for their work in the Off-Broadway production.
We recently asked Taylor to pen a list of her most memorable nights in the theatre; her responses follow.
National Tour of South Pacific
Starring Robert Goulet, Barbara Eden, Armelia McQueen, and David Carroll—those voices! With all the arrogance of youth, I talked myself into not being impressed by Robert Goulet, but then he sang! So beautifully. It was truly a ”Robert Goulet, Robert Goulet, my God, Robert Goulet!” moment that day in rehearsal. David Carroll—that tenor of his was so thrilling! He was kind, generous, smart, and so good looking. I had the small part of Emile’s manservant, and I understudied Armelia McQueen as Bloody Mary.
We were playing one of those 3,000–4,000-seat arenas in Pennsylvania, when Armelia took sick suddenly at the end of the matinee. In rehearsal, I had stepped in for her from time to time, but I had never done the second act! Daniel Marcus, friend, castmate, and fine fellow, took it upon himself to lovingly, patiently, and with good humor walk me through my second act. He made sure I was solid. I had a ball! Armelia recovered, and all was well.
I played Madame Morrible in the Emerald City Tour, from the summer of 2008 to the fall of 2009. Louisville, Kentucky, had some really fine restaurants. Went to dinner before the show one night, and ordered an excellent side dish of Brussels sprouts. Right before my first entrance, I became acquainted with the power of Brussels sprouts. I had never in my adult life been so at the mercy of… Dressing rooms were on the first floor, and … What?! Whew! I made it.
Electra on Broadway
I took a hiatus. I’d become a little irritated and confused by the business. My agents were on board, and agreed to give me some time and space. They called a few months later with an audition for Electra, directed by David Leveaux, starring Zoë Wanamaker and Claire Bloom.
The part was one of a chorus of three women. Two of whom were silent. Silent. The play started at The McCarter and moved to Broadway. The backdrop of this Electra was Kosovo. David said the women were silent because if they spoke they would never stop screaming. That is a great piece of direction. And so Mirjana Jokovic and I swirled and emoted and lived with Zoë/Electra. We had to learn what the space between us was, and how best to use it. To this day, the imagined text of that silent script is one of the most satisfying I’ve ever played.
Nine on Broadway
I started to sing “Be Italian” and realized my microphone wasn’t working. There probably was a bead of sweat on it or something, and I didn’t know enough to try flicking it—I just knew I had no amplification. Suddenly, I saw our musical director [Kevin] Stites give a huge gesture to the orchestra. He took them all the way down. OK, fine—time to project! I sang to a full house. Unamplified. There was a high school group in—what would they think? How would they respond?…They liked it.
Later, I was a little testy with our sound guy, but it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t his fault at all. Stuff happens, and we got through it!
Royal Shakespeare Company (Stratford-upon-Avon)
For nine months I played Paulina in The Winter's Tale and Dionyza in Pericles with The Royal Shakespeare Company in London and Stratford-upon-Avon. This wasn’t the first time I’d performed in England, but this was a unique circumstance. I was one of three Americans in the company—the other two were expats. I loved being in a place where no one knew my story. I loved the company. I acquired a taste for port. A stage manager recommended its medicinal qualities. I took long walks in the English countryside with another stage manager, Simon. Simon took me rowing twice on the River Avon. We stopped at the the pub and picked up some Pimm’s for our second ride.
When I returned to America, I stood on the sidewalk in front of my apartment and marveled at the mighty Hudson. I was home, and I had missed her. I’ve known rivers.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical on Broadway
I play Ms. Turner’s grandmother in this piece. It was a loving relationship, and I knew, I just knew I would have a moment with Tina.
Opening night. Tina and Erwin are here! She’s coming backstage. There I was seated in one of my backstage perches, and then there was Tina. Two feet away from me. She turned and saw me. She said such nice things to me, and I to her. And we hugged. Then Erwin took my hand and kissed it.
No cameras, this interaction was not recorded anywhere, except my body and soul.