“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” (at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre) is a musical bio of the late queen of disco. The songs are clearly the key thing here, not the drab script.
Three singing/actresses appear as Summer: LaChanze (the original star of “The Color Purple” on Broadway) as the later-career Donna, or “Diva Donna,” Ariana DeBose (“Hamilton”) as the earlier hit-making “Disco Donna,” and in a smaller part, the young “Duckling Donna,” played by Storm Lever.
What marks this as a jukebox musical is that the songs (some of which were written by Summer) are not necessarily reflective of her life as it progresses onstage. For example, “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls” are terrific numbers but the lyrics don’t have any relation to Summers’ life.
The singing is all on a high level and there is a hot set of dancers executing the exciting choreography of Sergio Trujillo.
The weak part is the book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff, who also directed.
McAnuff in the past directed hit shows, such as “Jersey Boys” but the Four Seasons had a colorful past. By contrast, Summer’s life, as shown here, never seems to rise about showbiz clichés, e.g., being forced to go on the road when she has a young child at home or becoming romantically involved with an abusive man.
One of the best songs in the show is “MacArthur Park” (which was not written by Summer but by Jimmy Webb). But Summer’s version, like the one here, certainly outdoes the original recording by Richard Harris.
If you’re happy with listening to fine versions of Summer’s songs and can ignore the uninspired script, you may feel you got your money’s worth.
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