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Tina Turner ‘Salute’ Act Is Set to Rock the Birchmere with New Jersey-Based Suzette Dorsey

Win tickets to see Forever T I N A at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA on February 23, 2023. Text Birchmere to 844-982-3263 to be entered to win.

Suzette Dorsey doesn’t care for the term “tribute act.” Rather, her show “Forever T I N A” is a “salute” to the music and persona of the legendary Tina Turner. 

“I was a ‘recreation’ artist for many years, [and] that was the term I used before I used ‘salute,’” Dorsey said recently on a phone call. “[Our show] is the world’s number-one salute to Tina Turner. I can honestly say that because I have traveled the world for 15 years with this show.”

Suzette Dorsey as Tina Turner - Photo Courtesy of the Artist
Suzette Dorsey as Tina Turner - Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Dorsey grew up in a musical family in New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. While in college at Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University, she would frequently head down to the capital region to visit her brother, who was studying at the University of Maryland. One of those fateful weekends, the siblings went to see Turner perform at the Warner Theatre, an event that changed Dorsey’s life. 

“I think subconsciously her persona entered my brain and never left,” she said. “And so, from that point on, I followed her.”

By her own admission, Dorsey began channeling Turner more or less on a lark. However, not long thereafter, she was hired to join a show that also included Prince and Michael Jackson lookalike artists. 

“We shot the video. The agents shopped it around, and everyone they shopped it to wanted to hire me as Tina,” Dorsey said, adding, with a laugh, “I became Tina by accident.”

Dorsey will bring “Forever T I N A: The World’s #1 Salute to Tina Turner!” to the Birchmere in Alexandria Feb. 23. It will be an evening filled with such recognizable tunes as “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” as well as lesser-known songs, including “What You Get Is What You See.”

“It’s not as well-known [but] the real Tina fans will probably know it,” Dorsey said of the song, adding that she also throws in a cover medley of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll” by the Rolling Stones—which Turner herself famously tackled at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1982. 

“We don’t always do that one because we have to make sure this one is in, and so on and so forth,” Dorsey said, promising the Birchmere crowd is up for a rocking evening indeed.

Forever T I N A - Photo Courtesy of Suzette Dorsey
Forever T I N A - Photo Courtesy of Suzette Dorsey

The singer says it can be a challenge to fully inhabit Turner given that, well, she doesn’t have Turner’s wardrobe budget. However, due to having been a professional musician for as long as she has, Dorsey describes herself as always possessing “fashion consciousness,” which definitely helps when seeking out clothing and other accouterments for “Forever T I N A.”

“Sometimes there’s a fashion she might have that I don’t particularly care for or might not look as nice on me, so I’ll vary it just enough to [suit] me,” Dorsey said, adding that she no longer wears wigs as part of the act. “I ended up just coloring my hair and adding extensions when necessary. It’s easier.”

Dorsey, who is still based in South Jersey, believes that tribute or “salute” acts such as hers remain popular due to the fact that the real McCoy can often be prohibitively expensive (especially as the recent Ticketmaster fiascos involving Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift have demonstrated). Dorsey and her group playing smaller venues such as the Birchmere allows for a far more intimate experience that is simply impossible in a giant stadium. 

“We’re basically a theater show. The Birchmere falls into that category because of how it’s set up,” she said, adding that her group is already getting booked for festival gigs later this year as well. 

Furthermore, Turner is 83 and hasn’t toured since 2009; she renounced her U.S. citizenship in 2013 and lives in Switzerland full-time. 

“She married her German record producer [Erwin Bach], but in order for them to buy property in Switzerland, they had to have Swiss citizenship,” Dorsey explained. “So she’s very comfortable there. I’m sure she comes back and forth [to America] from time to time but…maybe not as much.”

Asked if Dorsey has ever met her idol, she relates that she’s shared several of the same dressing rooms at the exact same venues Turner has utilized, but their paths have never crossed—even though Dorsey has been seated in the front row at several of Turner’s shows.

“In those days, they were whisking her off right after the show, which I like to do,” Dorsey said.  “I’ve never had a face-to-face meeting with her [but] I’m over it. It’s been a pleasure to recreate her.”

Forever T I N A - Photo Courtesy of Suzette Dorsey
Forever T I N A - Photo Courtesy of Suzette Dorsey

Having grown up in New Jersey, she has visited the DMV area many times over the years to sightsee and of course visit her brother when he was studying in College Park. Even though she has performed around the DMV, the “Forever T I N A” show will mark Dorsey’s first time on the Birchmere’s vaunted stage. 

“When I was looking up hotels and I jokingly [typed] ‘near the Birchmere’ [the results came back as] ‘one mile from the Birchmere,’” Dorsey related of the search results showing a great many resting places close to the Alexandria venue. “I said, ‘Whoah, they’ve got it like that, eh?’”

Dorsey is optimistic about the state of live music after some rather shaky years. She is looking forward to returning to playing as many venues as feasible post-pandemic, both domestically as well as getting more stamps on her passport.

But first, she wants people who come to see “Forever T I N A” at the Birchmere to know they will be in for a fabulous evening. And, because her show is G-rated, it’ll be fun for the entire family.

“We’ve got high energy, we’ve got four dancers that recreate Tina’s choreography. We’ve got two backing vocalists that sing extremely well and a six-piece band—and we rehearse them to a T,” Dorsey said. “You can get up and dance wherever you are…have fun and sing along with us. Dance in your seat if you want!”

“Forever T I N A: The World’s #1 Salute to Tina Turner!” will roll into the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Birchmere.com.

Win tickets to see Forever T I N A at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA on February 23, 2023. Text Birchmere to 844-982-3263 to be entered to win.

Eric Althoff

A native of New Jersey, Eric Althoff has published articles in “The Washington Post,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Napa Valley Register,” “Black Belt,” DCist, ScreenComment.com and Luxe Getaways. He produced the Emmy-winning documentary, “The Town That Disappeared Overnight,” and has covered the Oscars live at the Dolby Theater. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with his wife, Victoria.

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