BWW Album Review: Donna Summer Fans Will Love To Love The Original Broadway Cast Recording of SUMMER
It can be tough out there for a jukebox musical. Many have come, few have stayed. Yet, it seems like Broadway can't get enough of them. Recent hits like JERSEY BOYS and BEAUTIFUL: THE Carole King MUSICAL are the picture of what a staged jukebox success looks like. They have paved the great white way in gold for future musicals of the like to flood their way in. SUMMER: THE Donna Summer MUSICAL is one of latest in the new class jukebox musical to hit the Broadway stage. The show opened to subpar reviews at the Lunt-Fontanne theater this spring, after a 2017 premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse. Republic Records, with producers Tommy Mottola and The Dodgers, released the original cast recording this past July. Buy or stream the album here!
The musical revolves around Summer's biggest hits, telling her story from the perspective of three different-aged Donna's. Storm Lever, Ariana DeBose, and LaChanze cover the life of the disco diva, sequentially. After one listen of this recording, it goes without saying all three of their vocals have the ability to command a room. The combination of these popular tunes and their performance of them seem to be the lifeblood of this show. This album is enough (is enough) for anyone looking for just that- fun covers of Summer's hits sung with lively exuberance.
The album, while it is a fun listen, does not give too much insight into the life of Donna Summer. The recording feels more like a compilation cover album than a cast recording. Story seekers will have to get the first-hand experience with a ticket to the show to learn what book-writers Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff decided to include. However, what the album lacks in story, it makes up for in its irresistible energy.
The music proves justification for the show, mounting Summer as an undeniable force of disco-nature. Ripe with hits like "I Feel Love", "MacArthur Park", "Heaven Knows", and "Hot Stuff", to name a few, this musical showcases the repertoire of Ms. Summer and undoubtedly highlights the impact she has had on not only disco music, but the music industry as a whole. This bio-musical serves the purpose of a representing her contribution to music.
Lever, in her Broadway debut, portrays the youngest Donna, getting her start singing in church. She has a force in her voice that sets the tone for where that voice rightfully leads her. The other ? of Donna, DeBose and LaChanze, carry the torch of vitality through the highs and lows of Summer's life. The best strength in having the three women portray Summer gives it an episodic feel, marking certain chapters of her life and career and tracking her growth into being regarded as a disco icon. The album will leave you dancing- quite literally, as the shows finale is "Last Dance". From start to finish, the album is rampant with energy.
Despite mixed reviews of the show as a whole, this album is a celebration of Summer's hits. This recording is a parade of 23 of her best, some in snippets, some in whole. The throughline here though, is that if you are a fan of Summer, you will be saying "I feel love" for the album. For tickets and more information about SUMMER: THE Donna Summer MUSICAL, click here!