SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A little girl from southeast Louisiana shares her big talent with Broadway lovers around the country as she steps on stage to bring a music legend’s humble beginnings to life.
Ayvah Johnson is a born performer. Click any video on her Instagram and it’s easy to understand how she landed the Broadway breakout role of a lifetime at the tender age of nine. She sings, dances, acts and has a precocious spark indicative of powerhouse talent.
Johnson says she was performing in another show when the opportunity to join the Broadway production opened up.
“So pretty much I was on another gig, and my mom had already gotten me an agent. And she (the agent) was like they’re looking for a young Anna Mae in the Tina Turner national Broadway tour,” Johnson said. “So I did the audition, and when she told me that I got it I was really, really excited.”
With her Broadway pass stamped, Johnson and her mother, Kaula Johnson, traveled to New York City in August to start auditioning for the tour’s opening night in Providence, Rhode Island, on September 14.
Turner’s iconic career started, ended, and restarted before Johnson was born. So she had to get up to speed on the superstar’s humble origin story.
“At first, I didn’t really know who she was at all. So I actually watched the movie, so that told me a little bit about her. It showed me what she looked like when she was singing and everything. So I’m quite familiar with her now,” Johnson said.
Not only did Johnson familiarize herself with Turner’s life story and contributions to the music industry, but she’s also learning more about a traveling performer’s life. Johnson says traveling is her least favorite part of her journey thus far.
“I personally don’t like traveling. I don’t like being in airports, and so every time that we have to like get on a plane and then go to the city, it’s like we’re in a rush to pack our suitcases, we’re in a rush,” Johnson said. “And then I think that kind of something brings up my adrenaline when I’m at the airport because it’s like I was rushing before, and now I’m about to do something that I really don’t like – go to the airport.”
But she has to travel to experience her favorite part of the journey – sharing the stage with her castmates, so she’s learning that life is about balance.
“My favorite part about being in the show is getting to meet new people, and you know, getting to be on stage with them,” Johnson said. “It’s very fun, and it brings a lot of excitement.”
Johnson has been acting in school and community theater productions for over half of her young life. So the nightly routine of a theater actor is just what it is. But for Johnson, hearing the audience’s reaction to each performance always feels like a new, exciting experience.
Reviews for “Tina” and Johnson’s performance as Young Anna Mae are positive. Reviewers note the strength of her performance is the perfect foreshadowing of the woman Tina Turner would become.
Johnson understands the magnitude of portraying a living legend and constantly thinks about who Young Anna Mae was, how she moved, and what motivated her in order to bring a top tier performance each night.
“I do think about that, and I think about it when I’m doing like the church scene at the beginning of the show. What it brings to my mind is like – you have to be young Anna Mae at this moment,” Johnson said. “And so yeah, that’s how I think about like the fact that I am playing a role of a legend; someone who is, yes, still alive today.
When asked if she grows tired of “living the dream” and wants to be a nine-year-old without the responsibility of showing up for castmates and audiences, Johnson says she does get homesick, but she remembers that this is what she’s dreamt of.
“When I feel like I don’t want to be little Tina today, I want to just be Ayvah – how I overcome that is by thinking about it. I would be like, hey, you’re getting to do a live performance about someone who may even come to see the show tonight, so give it. Give it your all,” Johnson said. “So it’s like you be grateful for that if nothing else.”
A complete list of “Tina” national tour dates and tickets can be purchased on the website.