Summer: The Donna Summer Musical Delivers in Disco But Not in Depth

Pantages biopic features more than 20 hits from the Queen of Disco

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If you love disco, flashy costumes and tons of dance numbers “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” won’t disappoint. If you are looking for the bio-musical, now playing at the Pantages through November 24, to tell the story of the rise to fame, trials and tribulations of Summer’s life, you won’t find it in this 90-minute tribute to the Queen of Disco.

Three actresses portray Summer at various stages of her life with Olivia Elease Hardy taking on young Ducking Donna; a standout Alex Hairston playing Disco Donna and Dan’yelle Williamson portraying narrator, older Donna and Donna’s mother Mary Gaines.

The challenge with “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” is that it briefly, if at all, reveals the most difficult and challenging moments of the musical icon’s life. The audience gets just a glimpse of Summer’s suicide attempt, anti-gay controversies and sexual abuse by her pastor. The musical references itself as the “concert of a lifetime” recalling the ups and downs of Summer’s life and career, but it falls short on exploring critical life events.

It does deliver, in a big way, the late 70’s and 80’s music that made Summer a superstar. Fans can enjoy more than 20 disco numbers including “Bad Girls,” “She Work’s Hard for the Money,” “On the Radio,” “Dim All the Lights,” “Hot Stuff,” and “Last Dance,” paired with dazzling lights, glittery costumes by Paul Tazewell and a pulsing beat. The all female dancers portray both men and women dress in sexy suits and bright dancewear giving energy to Sergio Trujillo’s excellent choreography. There’s also a few moments featuring speeches about women’s rights and equal pay that garnered audience applause, but more depth to go with all of the disco would have made for a more rounded production.

If you loved the disco era and Summer’s many hits, “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” will have you dancing in the aisles.

Now playing through November 24 a the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, tickets at
https://www.hollywoodpantages.com.

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Shaena Engle
Shaena Engle is a food, lifestyle and travel writer for a variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Pasadena magazine, AOL, The Daily Meal, The San Diego Union Tribune and PokerPro magazine. She has interviewed top chefs including Lidia Bastianich, Michael Chiarello, Hubert Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Jose Andres, and many others. She has authored three books, The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Las Vegas (Globe Pequot Press), The Best Places to Kiss in Southern California (Beginning Press, a romantic travel guide) and Silver Linings: Triumphs of The Chronically Ill and Physically Challenged (Prometheus Books).  She is also an amateur magician and often writes on gambling, poker and magical happenings.  She also is a freelance consultant on restaurant, food, travel and hospitality public relations and marketing efforts.
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