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Review Roundup: Did the Critics Think SUMMER Was Hot Stuff? Read the Reviews!

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical opens on Broadway tonight, Monday, April 23, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th Street.

She was a girl from Boston with a voice from heaven, who shot through the stars from gospel choir to dance floor diva. But what the world didn't know was how Donna Summer risked it all to break through barriers, becoming the icon of an era and the inspiration for every music diva who followed. With a score featuring more than 20 of Summer's classic hits including "Love to Love You Baby," "Bad Girls" and "Hot Stuff," this electric experience is a moving tribute to the voice of a generation.

The three actresses who play the role of musical icon Donna Summer are Tony Award winner LaChanze (The Color Purple, Once on This Island) as "Diva Donna," Ariana DeBose (A Bronx Tale, Hamilton) as "Disco Donna" and Storm Lever (Freaky Friday) as "Duckling Donna."

Let's see what the critics had to say...


Jesse Green, The New York Times: Even by that standard, "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical," which opened on Monday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, is a blight. Despite the exciting vocalism of a cast led by the formidable LaChanze, it reduces the late Queen of Disco and pioneer of electronica to a few factoids and song samples that make her seem profoundly inconsequential. You could learn more (and more authentically) by reading a thoughtful obituary while listening to her hits - "Hot Stuff," "Last Dance," "She Works Hard for the Money," among many others - online.

Matt Windman, amNY: Lookin' for some hot stuff baby this evenin'? Look somewhere other than the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, now home to "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical" (inventive title, no?), the latest addition to Broadway's never-ending assembly line of mindless jukebox musicals constructed around a singer-songwriter's biggest pop hits.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Heaven knows what the creators of Summer are thinking, if any thought at all has gone into this disco dud of a show. Three talented and blameless women-LaChanze, Ariana DeBose and Storm Lever-play the late Donna Summer at different stages of her life in a tacky, sub-Vegas jukebox biomusical that draws from the singer's groovy catalog of hits, including "I Feel Love," "MacArthur Park," "On the Radio" and "Last Dance." At its most watchable, the show plays like a barely dramatized adaptation of Summer's Spotify and Wikipedia pages. But when it's bad, it's so, so bad.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: And that's not even including "Bad Girl" and "No More Tears" ("Enough is Enough"); enough, when it comes to Summer, never really being enough. Not for we longtime fans, anyway. And unless you are in the parody business, you then need the actual life-story of the singer to have a structure on which to hang all of those songs, being as they express simple feelings, not complex narratives. So since you need all of these levels of permission from the flame, or the keeper thereof, to even enter the heat of the dance-floor, your chances of telling the warts-and-all truth are, you might say, limited.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Sadly, that's one of the few decent jokes in this tacky little show, a feebly dramatized Wikipedia page with lackluster covers, which was rushed to Broadway following a fall tryout at La Jolla Playhouse that received mostly tepid reviews. And yet it shows no sign of improvements having been attempted. Heaven knows it's not the way it should be.

Greg Evans, Deadline: Anyone who worked as hard for her money - and for a professional respect that came too late - as Donna Summer did deserves so much more than this. A jukebox musical that could undo all the genre rehab delivered by superior shows built around Carole King and, if you want to stretch the definition a bit to include Lazarus, David Bowie, Broadway's Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, opening tonight, is as unimaginative as its title.

Joe Dziemianowicz, The Daily News: Enough is enough with Broadway jukebox musicals stitched together with threadbare and synthetic stories. And when it comes to "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical" that goes triple. It took three writers for the bummer of a script for this show at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: Since "Summer" is very much a concert, the songs don't help to tell the story. They do help to break up the monotony, not that the music itself is in any way varied.

Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post: "Summer," which opened Monday, is borderline incoherent. It turns a complex woman's life into a hagiography, a slide show of events - Boston childhood, stint in Europe, fame, motherhood, illness - minus context or emotion.

Sara Holdren, Vulture: They've come for the music - and perhaps theatergoers like me have our own cynicism to reckon with in the face of a fan's earnest euphoria. Whatever your personal taste, being surrounded by genuine excitement-by middle-aged women wearing sequined blouses actually standing up in a Broadway theater and joyfully shaking their booties during multiple slinky disco numbers-does a body good. That's what's currently happening in the Lunt-Fontanne, and thanks to the swift, smart construction of Summer, which neither overburdens its material nor overstays its welcome, it's a pretty damn good time.

Breanne J. Heldman, Entertainment Weekly: If you're lookin' for some hot stuff on Broadway, you've come to the right place. Summer: The Donna Summer Musical delivers the seasonal sunshine. It just doesn't also bring a whole lotta depth.

Barbara Schuler, Newsday: What saves all this, of course, is the celebration of the music, with a parade of hits starting with her first biggie, the mildly controversial "Love to Love You Baby" (many references to the orgasmic nature of the song), and on to Billboard toppers such as "MacArthur Park," "On the Radio" and "She Works Hard for the Money." Never mind that these songs sometimes show up without moving the story along, as when a chorus line of hookers appears for no discernible reason other than to sing "Bad Girls."

Jesse Oxfeld, New York Theatre Review: The performances are frequently electric, and the songs sound spectactular, but any attempt to learn something about Summer's life, to understand what drove her, to gain a deeper era understanding of the disco era, comes and goes as quickly and lightly as that barely acknowledged tumor.

Tim Teeman, Daily Beast: To be clear, the clunking weirdness of this jukebox musical devoted to the "queen of disco" has nothing to do with the three singers representing Summer at different stages of her life. Storm Lever as young "Duckling Donna," Ariana DeBose as "Disco Donna," and-most stage-commandingly -LaChanze as "Diva Donna" do all they can to animate and give variously fierce or smooth fuel to the show's retinue of Summer's standards; the same goes for the hard-working, hard-dancing ensemble. (LaChanze particularly stands out. The poor dancers labor through some really odd choreography.)

Mark Shenton, The Stage: Staged with ruthless efficiency by director Des McAnuff, who previously led one of Broadway's best-ever bio-musicals Jersey Boys to worldwide success, it follows that show's template (one also adopted by Beautiful, the Carole King musical) of folding the well-known hits into the story of Summer's life.


Check out tracks from "Summer: The Original Hits"

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