Donna’s Summer Musical (Ordway) – Twin Cities Arts Reader

The cast of the national tour company of Summer: Donna’s summer musical. Initially scheduled until January 2, the remaining performances of the show at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in Saint Paul, MN have been canceled due to COVID-19.

With so many shows on tour, you can blink and miss them. For Summer: Donna’s Summer Musical, who performed at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, things were even more fleeting. Before the show could complete half of its run, cases of COVID-19 forced the show to shut down and the tour company to quarantine.

Wondering what you missed? Donna Summer was known as the ‘Queen of Disco’ for good reason: she sang one disco hit after another, while updating her style to the beat of 42 (!) Top 40 hits over decades. Myself, I never liked disco much as a young adult, but she had two songs that impressed me: her rendition of “MacArthur Park” and “She Works Hard for her Money”. Her music video for that last song was some of the best I have ever seen on MTV.

With a rich collection of musical hits and a few personal dramas, Summer’s life is perfect for a jukebox musical. The resulting show, under the direction of Lauren L. Sobon, has a dazzling musical score and solid musical performances. However, the book on Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff’s show is rambling, confusing, and devoid of substance.

The cast of Summer: Donna’s Summer Musical.

The story is told by three versions of Summer: middle-aged Diva Donna (Brittny Smith), young Disco Donna (Charis Gullage) and young Duckling Donna (Amahri Edwards-Johes). All three actors bring the vocal chops needed for Summer’s tunes, and the trio blend well on stage in both the vocals and acting scenes.

The musical score consists of songs written by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Jabara and others. It is also packed with sound, with 23 summer hits. One of the dance moves that shines is “She Works Hard for Her Money” and is one of the few songs that takes the story forward. (A faster selection could have helped make more space for a more interesting storyline.) As the singers and dancers do a mind-blowing job, Natalie Caruncho’s choreography becomes repetitive over so many disparate songs. While the songs and events featured do not unfold in chronological order, this is not so much of a problem as the script’s failure to give adequate facts or explore how Summer’s life experiences influenced her. music. Thankfully, talented band members Erika R. Garmez, Amy Liu, Nicolas Johnson, Jared Cannata, and Jesse-Ray Leich keep an upbeat pace with the music that moves the show better than the book.

The result does not give a great understanding of Donna Summer’s biography – rather a few nursery notes. The facts that I gleaned very quickly and incompletely is that Summer began her touring career in a production of Hair in Germany in the 1970s. She married a German, had a child, divorced and then got involved with another European who was physically abusive. In the end, she found the right man and had more children. She also thought about suicide, had a brief drug addiction problem, and she regained religion even though the public never knew she had lost it. She recorded her first record with an Italian producer, became a big disco star, sued her record company, then signed with a better record company. This sounds as if it had to be a big drama, but in Summer, everything comes so fast that I had to consult Wikipedia after the show to understand the meaning.

To be a great jukebox musical, audiences must have some understanding of the artist even if the biography is incomplete. The audience was clearly captivated by the music of the show, but I left the show feeling that I had no connection or understanding of Summer. It’s a shame.

Other representations of Summer: Donna’s Summer Musical were canceled due to COVID-19.

Latest articles by Bev Wolfe (see everything)