Bruin to Broadway

The story of Adrienne Warren, a Broadway Star


A picture from Adrienne Warren’s senior year at Western Branch High School.

Gracen Luallin, Journalist

From the halls of Western Branch to being on a stage all around the world, Adrienne Warren has made a name for herself. She has played Tina Turner in the hit Broadway musical, Tina Turner, and has been in numerous other Broadway shows. Warren graduated in 2005 and attended The Governor’s School for the Arts. Warren is not only an actress, but she is also a co-founder of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition. Though this is her dream, she never knew it would turn into something so big.

Her experience at Western Branch shaped her into the actress she is today, and also helped her realize she can do more than just sing.“I’ll tell you what Western Branch really inspired me to look outside of performing to actually realize that there were other things that I was interested in,” Warren said, “like choreographing or working backstage.”

With the pandemic, it has affected the way that Warren has done her job and how she executes it. “We had to stop everything. I think it was March 13th, where we were already very nervous,” Warren stated, “we had stopped a lot of things, like a lot of touching a lot. I was like anti-backing my hands between every scene, but I was still on a stage and in a building with thousands of people….. I couldn’t do autographs backstage, which sucked, too.”

Along with being an actress, she has also co-founded the organization Broadway Advocacy Coalition (BAC), which is trying to make the arts more diverse and unified. “We started BAC in 2016 and during that time we just saw a void in the industry that needed to be filled. We saw that the industry wasn’t speaking up for black and brown lives and that was really painful for a lot of us because we give our all to this industry,” Warren said. “We sacrifice times with our families for this industry. We sacrifice our bodies for this industry, our voices, and to actually be a part of something that doesn’t recognize or acknowledge that your existence matters was very painful.” 

When creating the BAC, she and the other founders had no idea how to even start an organization. She was quick with a joke and said she had a Nonprofit for Dummies book in her living room. Even with all the struggles, she still made her way into an organization whose mission is: “builds the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities to dismantle the systems that perpetuate racism through the power of storytelling and the leadership of people directly affected.”

From a performance at Western Branch

Warren, since taking time off of Broadway due to COVID-19, has landed a role in an ABC television show. She is playing the role of Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who became a civil-rights activist when her son was murdered. “We are often told black women are so strong, black women are superheroes, but we never actually see how they get their capes,” Warren said. “You never actually see the vulnerable moments when maybe they aren’t as strong as you think, maybe that’s still somebody’s son that was tortured and murdered and then got no justice. That’s why I thought it was important for me to do this show.”

Since being away from Western Branch, her goals have changed tremendously. “I wanted to go to college for basketball,” Warren said, “I wanted to be on Broadway at some point, [but] I really just wanted to be in the ensemble or something, I didn’t really expect anything else. I never expected any of this. I just worked as hard as I could and I just did my best. And so honestly, I’ve exceeded everything I could have possibly imagined or dreamt for myself.”

Finally, when talking about what to say to younger kids who have big, aspiring dreams like hers, especially young girls of color, Warren said: “Sometimes you just need to see one person to give yourself permission to dream like that. It is so important for them to even recognize that they can take for themselves or even get permission to dream like that, in that way.”