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Interview: Francisco Risso Talks About the Amazing SUMMER: THE DONNA SUMMER MUSICAL at Fisher Theatre!

Detroit premiere is March 8 – 20, 2022

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (Non Eq)

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard a Donna Summer song. Summer: The Donna Summer Musical makes its Detroit premiere at the Fisher Theatre, March 8th-20th, and BroadwayWorld Detroit had a chance to speak with Detroit native, Francisco Risso about the show. "Summer is uplifting, emotional, thrilling, entertaining, and soulful," the Dance Captain responded when asked to describe the show in five words. Risso had so much more to share about the show and why Detroit theatre fans should come to see it - check it out below!

Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and your theatre career as an introduction?

Hello, hello! I'm originally from Detroit, Michigan but currently reside in New York City! I began my career as a commercial dancer first in Los Angeles and have gotten to dance behind some major artists like Justin Bieber, Zendaya, Todrick Hall, danced/acted in numerous tv commercials, and have traveled the world on cruise ships and danced in theme parks internationally! While my theatre career is somewhat new, I've been in Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Ensemble/Young Bern), The Wizard of Oz (Ensemble), On Your Feet (Ensemble/Jose Fajardo US), Grease (Danny Zuko), and now currently on this amazing tour!

How would you describe Summer in your own words?

Summer is this amazing celebration of Donna's music and her life where we get to remember the queen of disco and dive a little bit deeper into her life and see her rise to fame! It's an action-packed 115 minutes where you literally can get out of your seat, dance to the music, and have an amazing time. It's nostalgic, it's exciting, it's emotional and it's just A LOT of fun! There's no way you can sit in your seat and not want to dance along. It's THAT type of show.

What was your first introduction to Donna Summer's music?

My mom loved Elvis Presley, she loved late 80's/early 90's dance music (like Dee-lite, La Bouche, Cece Peniston, Technotronic, Robin S, Crystal Waters), a Jock Jams cassette tape and she LOVED her some disco music! I remember always listening to "Last Dance" and "Hot Stuff" religiously in the car and it's this music that I still love today! Donna was a staple in all the car rides.

What would you say to someone with no prior knowledge of Donna Summer to get them to see the production?

It's quite interesting because I've run into people who don't really know who she is and my first response is..."Oh, you DEFINITELY know her music!" I'd tell them if you want a fun night out, get the chance to listen to some AMAZING music that you'll most definitely recognize, see a Broadway production in your hometown while watching amazing talent telling the story of a female music trailblazer who inspired the likes of Beyoncé...this is a show you'll want to come see!

Do you have a favorite moment and/or song in the show?

It's a tie between "MacArthur Park" and "Last Dance"! "MarArthur Park" is this pivotal moment in the show where the three Donnas come together and sing together for the first time plus the dancing and the grooves, it's so much fun. Then "Last Dance" is just the culmination that really gets everyone on their feet and gets everyone to dance and the audience goes wild every time.

What makes this musical unique?

I just think Donna Summer was such an icon for her time and beyond. Her music makes this musical unique. There's only a handful of shows where you get to have the entire audience standing on their feet and dancing during a number and hearing them sing along the entire show. This show is also led by an all-female creative team! What I've loved from the introduction of Summer on Broadway all the way till now is that there's so much girl power! Donna was a really strong and inspirational trailblazer and that female empowerment is seen all the way through this show from the creative team, to the three powerful leads and all the way down to the ensemble and crew.

Tell me about your character in the show.

Well, being in the ensemble I get to play a couple characters which is always exciting. I play Helmuth Sommer who was Donna's first husband who she met in Germany. Donna's famous last name "Summer" actually comes from Helmuth. I also play Norman Brokaw who is Donna Summer's agent and was the top mogul at the William Morris Agency. He not only represented Donna but also represented Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe amongst others. Aside from my characters in the show, I'm the Dance Captain for the tour and I'm very proud of this entire production.

Do you see any similarities between your character and yourself?

We don't dive too much into Helmuth but based on what you see in the show, you can see that he's willing to sacrifice to make sure Donna and his daughter have the best life possible and I'm very much a caretaker and nurturer as well. Norman is a no-nonsense, keeps it very real and will give you tough love but will very much so have your back kind of person and I'm also a very real and ride or die friend through thick and thin kind of guy too.

Would you be friends with your character in real life?

Absolutely! Helmuth was a creative type as he was an actor and musician himself so probably easy to get along with and Norman would be a great connection and great friend.

Why is Summer a great night out for Detroit theatre fans?

It's the perfect opportunity to step into the disco and experience a blast from the past type of evening while getting to experience moments in Donna's life that really shaped who she is, her life and her career. Get caught up in the music, sing along to Donna's greatest hits, dance along as much as you want and watch some very, very, very ridiculously talented people tell this story with every fiber of their being. When you think of iconic artists throughout time that really paved the way for female artists and especially for black female artists, Donna Summer is one of them. This show is packed with plenty of entertainment to have you leaving Fisher Theatre wanting to continue blasting her music on the way home.

How can readers connect with you?

INSTAGRAM: @ItsFranciscoOfficial

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical runs March 8th-20th at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit. For more information and tickets, visit www.BroadwayInDetroit.com.

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