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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical

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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#1
Posted: 11/7/17 at 12:25am

The first preview begins tonight, November 7th at the La Jolla Playhouse directed by former Artistic Director Des McAnuff; Music Supervision by Ron Melrose; Choreography by Sergio Trujillo and starring La Chanze as Diva Donna; Ariana DuBose as Disco Donna and Storm Lever as Duckling Donna.

I will be in attendance and will share my thoughts after I see it.  According to an e-mail that I received the running time is 1:50 with no intermission. 

Here is a link to info about the show or what I presume is the playbill.  According to the playbill it appears that there are 23 songs in the show.

http://www.lajollaplayhouse.org/downloads/kbyg/SUMMER-kbyg.pdf?utm_source=Email_marketing&utm_campaign=preshowsummer20171106&cmp=1&utm_medium=HTMLEmail

Read how each of the three actresses is connecting to her role as the legendary Donna Summer in this article in the SD Union-Tributne.

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/theater/sd-et-theater-donna-20171016-story.html?utm_source=Email_marketing&utm_campaign=Newsletter_SUMMER_NATIVE_VOICES_POP_TOUR&cmp=1&utm_medium=HTMLEmail  

Updated On: 11/7/17 at 12:25 AM
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#2
Posted: 11/7/17 at 12:29am
Holy phuck! Thanks for sharing these.

Excited to read your assessment.
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#3
Posted: 11/7/17 at 12:43am
woo hoo
will be there sunday night
love la chanze and curious to see this new show by des right after aint too proud
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#4
Posted: 11/7/17 at 12:45am

Did not know she was in the cast of HAIR in Germany. Also interesting there are no songs included from the Quincy Jones produced album.

Just give the world Love.
Updated On: 11/7/17 at 12:45 AM
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#5
Posted: 11/7/17 at 2:28am

curious to hear about how exactly all three Donnas are woven together.  is it confusing?

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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#6
Posted: 11/7/17 at 3:30am

VernonGersch said: "curious to hear about how exactly all three Donnas are woven together. is it confusing?"

 

And looking at the pictures it appears the three sing together at some point.

 

Just give the world Love.
Updated On: 11/7/17 at 03:30 AM
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#7
Posted: 11/7/17 at 10:51am
I’m seeing it next week
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#8
Posted: 11/7/17 at 2:09pm

Not a fan of the title. Wish they'd have come up with something more creative like "On Your Feet" or even "Beautiful."

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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#9
Posted: 11/7/17 at 2:19pm

Ado Annie D'Ysquith said: "Not a fan of the title. Wish they'd have come up with something more creative like "On Your Feet" or even "Beautiful.""

Not a particularly creative effort, was it?

=> This board is a nest of vipers <=
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#10
Posted: 11/7/17 at 2:21pm

Wicked Fanatic said: "Here is a link to info about the show or what I presume is the playbill...

http://www.lajollaplayhouse.org/downloads/kbyg/SUMMER-kbyg.pdf?utm_source=Email_marketing&utm_campaign=preshowsummer20171106&cmp=1&utm_medium=HTMLEmail
"

They need a new copy editor. 

=> This board is a nest of vipers <=
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#11
Posted: 11/8/17 at 3:52pm

uncageg said: "VernonGersch said: "curious to hear about how exactly all three Donnas are woven together. is it confusing?"



And looking at the pictures it appears the three singtogether at some point.


"

No, it isn't confusing.  It's very well-done and utilized throughout the musical and they sing together in the 2nd number "I Feel Love" which was the first of many that got tremendous applause from the audience.  Will explain more as I talk about the show from the musical numbers list.

The 1st preview began with Des McAnuff coming on stage and telling us that it would be approximately 1:45 without an Intermission and that at the dress rehearsal on the previous night there was only one stop during the show; at ours there were none.  Didn't look at my watch so have no idea whether it was longer or shorter than the time mentioned but it sure flew by and didn't seem like 1:45.

There was no curtain and the stage was bare except for the spotlights which were all laying on the stage.  When the show began they rose, turned on and a turntable with a Casablanca record rose from the floor and began playing a Donna Summer song.  Then LaChanze rose from the floor to tremendous applause and she had to say her 1st line to stop it and we found ourselves at a concert (the name of the place rolled across the lower front of the stage; used throughout the show to reference time and place of the scenes) and she sang "The Queen is Back", one of her songs that I wasn't familiar with.  It morphed into the appearance from the floor of Disco Donna, a gorgeous Ariana Debose on the left and Duckling Donna, Storm Lever on the right with LaChanze in the center and they sang "I Feel Love" in a concert setting which was greeted with loud cheers and applause by the audience.

LaChanze then talked to the concert audience and began narrating things about her life in song #3: "My Life" which began with her at a recording session with Giorgio Moroder (Mackenzie Bell) and Pete Bellotte (Kaye Tuckerman) trying to get her to record song #4 "Love To Love You Baby" that made her the First Lady of Love.  The really strange thing here was that Giorgio and Pete were played by women and as the show went on all the male roles except for four were performed by females.  It wasn't until curtain call when the cast came out that I realized that there were only four males in the show: Drew Foster who played the Gay friend Brian and a detective; Aaron Krohn who played Neil Bogart and the stalker Gunther; Ken Robinson as Donna's father, Andrew Gaines and Jared Zirilli as Bruce Sudano.  The rest, a total of 20 were played by females, many of whom played more than one role including LaChanze who also played Donna's mother, Mary.  Didn't particularly like the androgynous look to the actors but understand why it was done to show Donna fighting for control of her life professionally and personally which was the central plot of the show.

Then her life is followed thru the three Donna's with the most being played by Ariana Debose who was really incredible.  I loved her just in the ensemble in Hamilton, the OBC, but here she gets a chance to shine and this could be the show to make her a breakout star on Broadway when it reaches Broadway and it will.

The rest of the songs which except for two, the Oscar winning "Last Dance" and "MacArthur Park" were all written by Donna revealed the highs and lows of her life:

#5--"I Remember Yesterday"--morphs into 

#6--"On My Honor" set in a church with cathedral projections and a row of churchgoers which rolled onto the stage where she sang her 1st solo for the congregation.

#7--"Faster and Faster to Nowhere" which concentrated on Donna's teen years where she was searching for meaning to her life.

#8--"White Boys" leading to a dark 'deadly' encounter in the subway which led to her leaving Boston and heading to Germany to appear in "Hair" and the beginning of her disco career in

#9--"Love to Love You Baby (Reprise)

Donna wanted to sing and not just groan on her recordings and she finally got her chance to display her vocal range in the best musical number of the show as I said to my friend, WOW!  #10--"MacArthur Park".  I want a recording of this because Ariana DuBose was incredible!

#10--"Heaven Knows" introduced Jared Zarilli as her future husband, Bruce Sudano and an excellent duet with Ariana DuBose.

#11--"No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)

#12--"Pandora's Box" used to open all the problems that Donna was having in her personal and professional life and I think this was the really hard to watch domestic abuse scene in the play with Gunther.

#13--"On the Radio" set in Donna's car on stage was another crowd pleaser.

#14--"I Love You" revealed a 2nd car which had Bruce Sudano in it and he professed his love for Donna leading to her 2nd marriage after three years of courtship.

Then came the court case for Donna to get rid of Neil Bogart as her producer and taking financial control of her professional life in two beautifully choreographed numbers by Sergio Trujillo #15--"Bad Girls" and #16--"She Works Hard for the Money".

Next Neil Bogart died of cancer and Donna sang at his funeral center stage #17--"Dim All the Lights".

Life didn't get better but darker with even a possible suicide attempt that I never knew about at the Ritz Hotel in NYC that led to a rebirth in her religious views with #18--"I Believe in Jesus".  It also led to a reveal that she had been molested by someone in the church.

The next four were songs that were not familiar to me, but except for one all written by Donna and set in her home in Thousand Oaks and at the hospital when she got the bad news that she had terminal cancer.

#19--"Unconditional Love"

#20--"To Turn the Stone"--Cancer song I believe

#21--"Stamp Your Feet"--LaChanze sang this with her three daughters

#22--"Friends Unknown"--the infamous "Adam and Steve" comment.

#23-"Hot Stuff" returned to the beginning concert stage with the record player and LaChanze returning to set up the finale #24, the Oscar winning "Last Dance" which turned the La Jolla Playhouse into a disco complete with disco balls and even paper falling from the ceiling. 

I liked the staging even though the stage was mostly blank with sets when needed rolled on stage. Projections were used when needed for the church and her paintings which she pursued later in life.

Choreography by Sergio Trujillo was excellent and even better that it was performed by 20 females!

Music as expected was fabulous with all three Donna's fantastic and getting their chance to shine.  I really loved that at Curtain Call the orchestra was revealed on 5 projection screens that dropped from the top of the stage.  No one left until they finished.

The book had a lot of depth especially with the dark scenes but it still needs some work and I'll be interested in seeing what they change when I see it again at the final performance on December 17th.  

   

 

Updated On: 11/8/17 at 03:52 PM
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#12
Posted: 11/8/17 at 4:01pm

Not ending a Donna Summer jukebox musical with The Last Dance is a crime. edit: and a missed opportunity to get moms to dance in the aisles. 

Updated On: 11/8/17 at 04:01 PM
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#13
Posted: 11/8/17 at 5:07pm

raddersons said: "Not ending a Donna Summer jukebox musical with The Last Dance is a crime. edit: and a missed opportunity to get moms to dance in theaisles."

According to Wicked Fanatic, it was the finale.

 

Wicked Fanatic, Unconditional Love was one of those songs, at least in my circle, that was a favorite but not a hit.

 

Just give the world Love.
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#14
Posted: 11/8/17 at 5:13pm

^^My selective reading skills have failed me again. I missed #24 because it wasn't in list form like the rest.

Thank god something is right in the world.

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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#15
Posted: 11/8/17 at 5:16pm
And “moms dancing in the aisles” ? I thought old queens like me were the target audience.
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#16
Posted: 11/8/17 at 5:30pm

Can someone please explain to me why Girgio Moroder is played by a woman?  I'm all about gender neutral casting if the role isn't specific, but this person who happens to still be living today is very much a man, a prominent one, in the music industry.

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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#17
Posted: 11/8/17 at 6:49pm
Why not go full tilt and just do the whole show with all females? I think that'd be a really interesting and clever take for a juxebox musicial.
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#18
Posted: 11/8/17 at 7:04pm
Do they get into how she alienated her core fan base when she found Jesus and started spouting out that AIDS was God's punishment to gays?
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#19
Posted: 11/8/17 at 7:50pm
Matt, didn't she try to apologize for that at some point? Seems I remember her trying to "smooth" that over before one of her albums came out.
Just give the world Love.
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#20
Posted: 11/8/17 at 7:55pm
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/music/2012/05/17/exclusive-donna-summer-denies-making-antigay-remarks
Just give the world Love.
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#21
Posted: 11/8/17 at 7:59pm

Matt Rogers said: "Do they get into how she alienated her core fan base when she found Jesus and started spouting out that AIDS was God's punishment to gays?"

No it wasn't presented this way.  In "Friends Unknown" Donna is talking to Brian, the Gay friend (Drew Foster) about making a comment at a concert about the Gay crowd's behavior saying it's not Adam and Steve but Adam and Eve which inflamed the Gay community against her.   There's nothing mentioned about her comments she made about the AIDS epidemic.  She makes some type of apology to Gays through Brian, but it didn't fly with me.  I did not applaud at the end of that scene, but most of the audience did and it was quite loud and long.  TPTB said that it would be addressed in the play, but I don't think it was at all.

 

ETA:  uncageg that link you posted didn't work for me but here's the one that did.

http://www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/music/2012/05/17/exclusive-donna-summer-denies-making-antigay-remarks-hurt-her

Some of this was used in the apology in the musical, but definitely nothing about what she supposedly had to say about the AIDS epidemic.  Hopefully they work on this scene or just eliminate it completely.

 

Updated On: 11/8/17 at 07:59 PM
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#22
Posted: 11/8/17 at 9:24pm
Apologies...I left off the end of the limk address.
Just give the world Love.
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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#23
Posted: 11/9/17 at 1:13am

It seems like Des is desperately trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice. I mean, with the success of Jersey Boys, and now he has two juxebox shows aiming for Broadway? To me, this one sounds more entertaining and off-beat, which I like.

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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#24
Posted: 11/9/17 at 7:23am

smidge said: "And “moms dancing in the aisles” ? I thought old queens like me were the target audience."

There is no force on Broadway stronger than moms dancing in the aisles. It allowed Mamma Mia to run for over ten years, Jersey Boys to win Best Musical, and On Your Feet to run... well, longer than it should have. You may be the target demo, but if producers have a chance to let it happen, they should.

Dancing moms: it’s just good business for Broadway.

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Summer: the Donna Summer Musical#25
Posted: 11/9/17 at 8:16am

RippedMan said: "Why not go full tilt and just do the whole show with all females? I think that'd be a really interesting and clever take for a juxebox musicial."

Agree. All or nothing. 


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