REVIEW: SUMMER the Donna Summer Musical at the Denver Center
by Isaac Rosen
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh…….We Love to Love Her Baby!
Disco is alive and well at the Buell Theatre as is the legendary Donna Summer.
SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical chronicles her rise to stardom starting at an early childhood. The story is narrated by Diva Donna (the final Pokémon evolution of Donna), who is played by the charming Dan’yelle Williamson. Williamson does most of the heavy lifting in the plot as she introduces us to the younger versions of herself including Disco Donna, the young starlet and hitmaker at the prime of her career played by Alex Hairston, and Duckling Donna a young child, played by Olivia Elease Hardy. Hardy is truly an impressive young star on the rise and I expect to see big things from her in the future. With a voice as clear as a bell and as powerful as someone twice her age, she was truly the highlight of the evening.
In the last five years we have seen several legendary pop-star bio-musicals come to Broadway including Cher, Tina Turner, Gloria Estefan, The Temptations, as well as Donna Summer. The book and plot of this show was a bit of an incomprehensible time warp; and it was confusing and dizzying at times to keep track of the three Donna’s. Also heavy issues such as abuse get treated with levity and large sections of her life are skipped over. There were however many fascinating moments of insight and factoids about the diva’s life that drew the audience in – and oh and what a life she lived. The show is presented without an intermission which is definitely a positive for this production as it keeps it feeling breezy and fun. There is a slight dip during the last third of the show as we get into some of Summer’s deeper cuts but I must say that the production as a whole was quite entertaining.
The real star of the show was definitely the music itself. While watching the show you are truly reminded of the kind of inimitable career Donna Summer had and proves that this icon is a musical phenomenon that shows no signs of stopping. In this production, the arrangements left a little to be desired as far as the robustness of sound, and some vocal ensemble choices were a bit odd; but with source material this strong you can hardly go wrong.
The costumes were appropriately opulent and allowed you to get lost in the nostalgia that truly whisk you back to Studio 54. Sequins, feathers, bell bottoms all presented in a electric blue palate helped to paint the picture of this fashion icon.
Overall this show is definitely a must see for people of all ages and an entertaining musical education of one of our greatest stars whose influence on popular music is apparent to this day. Take the family and boogie on down to the Buell Theatre for an invigorating breath of SUMMER (playing now through February 9th). For tickets or more information, contact the Denver Center Box Office by calling 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org.