Meet Tina’s Leandra Ellis-Gaston and Find Out Why She ‘Boo-Hoo Cried’ During Her Broadway Debut | Srtalent
Leandra Ellis-Gaston is making her Broadway debut in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, where she serves as the Dance Captain, an ensemble member and a Tina understudy. Here, Ellis-Gaston shares about the first time she went on stage with on- hour notice, how Tina Turner’s music fuels her and more.
“My mom always had us moving. If music was on, we were dancing,” Ellis-Gaston said. “My first time on stage was in fifth grade when I played Miss Hannigan in Annie. I remember the bow and hearing the audience and being like, ‘Whoa! This is it. This is what it’s supposed to be like’.”
As she continued to dance, Ellis-Gaston went beyond the stage and found new ways to perform. “When I got in high school, I did color guard,” she said. “I was the girl that caught onto everything pretty quickly. I thought if they can do it, I can do it. But I want to do it better. Nothing grabbed my attention like the stage did. All aspects of it, too. The tech stuff, how the sound worked, how the lights looked, how the choreography looked on people. I was so interested in every little piece of theater that I couldn’t get enough. There wasn’t anything I didn’t want to learn.”
Ellis-Gaston has been with Tina since it opened in 2019, and while she has since gone on as a Tina understudy, it is her first performance that was the most memorable. “When I started Tina, I was a swing. We hadn’t rehearsed yet and I got the call an hour before saying I was going on. Everybody’s terrified because they’re like, ‘Does she know it?’ And I’m like, ‘I think I know it. I think I’m pretty good to go on.’ And by time we get to that bow, I just boo-hoo cried because I couldn’t believe my dreams came true.”
For Ellis-Gaston, performing in a musical about the life of Tina Turner holds a personal connection. “The music of Tina Turner has fueled me since I was a kid,” she said. “It’s that funk—it’s that beat that no one can really describe. I felt in my body any time I hear her music or any time I dance. You can feel it, but you can’t really hear it. Being a dancer on Broadway means that a dream is realized. There’s more dreams to come, don’t worry, but that dream is realized, which is exciting.”
Watch the interview below, and head here to check your local listings for The Broadway Show. Hosted by Emmy-winning anchor Tamsen Fadal, it is the only nationally syndicated weekly theater news program.