Thursday, April 26, 2018

Broadway Theater Review: Summer (The Donna Summer Musical)




Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
Book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff
Songs by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Jabara and others 
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
Directed by Des McAnuff 
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre 

By Lauren Yarger
Like the title says,  Summer it is the story of disco queen and music star Donna Summer. Three actresses play Summer at various times in her life: 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.” All three are excellent.

The book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff provides highlights from the diva's life without clogging the flow with too much information. Satisfyingly, a portrait of a strong women, who has survived sexual and substance abuse and who is a strong role model emerges (no small feat for three male writers to achieve). There were things I didn't know at all about this singer and I came away with a lot of respect for her. I had always liked her music, which included pop hits like "Love to Love You Baby," MacArthur Park," "On the Radio," "Hot Stuff" and "Last Dance," all of which find themselves performed in the show along with many others, but really hadn't known much about her private life.

I was particularly pleased to find that the writers didn't shy away from Summer's faith. It was a big part of her life and is incorporated in the storytelling (though many people rudely decided to get up and go for a bathroom break when "I Believe in Jesus" was performed.)

The production is very well done. Director Des McAnuff  does a good job of blending the different Donnas and gets excellent performances, both vocally and emotionally from all three.The story is engrossing and the music, under the direction of Victoria Theodore, makes you want to get up and dance. Those on stage get to do some great choreography by Sergio Trujillo.

Summer works hard for the money at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 206 West 46th St., NYC. thedonnasummermusical.com.

Additional casting:
Aaron Krohn as “Neil Bogart,” Ken Robinson  as “Andrew Gaines,” and Jared Zirilli  as “Bruce Sudano.”
Ensemble: Angelica Beliard  Mackenzie Bell ), Kaleigh Cronin, Kimberly Dodson, Anissa Felix , Drew Wildman Foster, Kendal Hartse, Afra Hines, Jenny Laroche, Wonu Ogunfowora, Rebecca Riker, Christina Acosta Robinson, Jessica Rush. Harris M. Turner,Aurelia Michael, Jody Reynard.

Additional credits:
Music supervised by Ron Melrose; sccenic design by Robert Brill, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lighting by Howell Binkley, sound by Gareth Owen, projections by Sean Nieuwenhuis.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Some more mature content. I would give it a PG-13 rating.

No comments:

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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