Donna Summer Musical is an engaging biography

LaChanze as “Diva Donna,” Ariana Debose as “Disco Donna” and Storm Lever as “Duckling Donna” are seen in La Jolla Playhouse’s world premier production of “Summer, The Donna Summer Musical”. Kevin Berne photos

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to the Village News

This fast-paced, energetic production wows the imagination as it is driven by the hard-disco beat of the 70’s. It is electrifying.

Known for innovative ground-breaking theatre, La Jolla Playhouse has struck gold with the world premier of “Summer, The Donna Summer Musical”. The singing biography of Disco Queen Donna Summer is brought to life through the voices of  a talented trio of young women.

It’s almost a concert, albeit the life story of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Donna Summer (born LaDonna Adrian Gaines) is at first hard to follow. The music takes a few minutes to develop the characters.

Donna’s story is told by three characters. First appearing as Diva Donna, Tony Award winning actress/singer LaChanze opens the show at Summer’s last concert with the story unfolding behind and around her. Playing the younger Duckling Donna is Storm Lever, and Disco Donna is played by Ariana DeBose. All three actors have remarkable voices and incredible acting ability.

Ariana Debose, center, performs as “Disco Donna” with the cast of La Jolla Playhouses’s world premier production of “Summer, The Donna Summer Musical”.

The entire cast springs to life with the first beat of the dizzying strobe lights and swirling graphics. This non-stop, disco driven production transports the soul back to Studio 54 with songs like “MacArthur Park”, “Heaven Knows”, “Enough is Enough”, “On the Radio”, “Bad Girls” and “Last Dance”. These are just a few of her platinum winning tracks. The music is alive and engaging.

Because the biographical musical weaves back and forth to portray Donna’s life from adolescence to her death at 63, you will be doing yourself a favor if your read her biography before the performance to help follow her story.

Playing without intermission, this one hour and 45-minute show slips by so quickly you’ll be screaming for more when the cast leaves the stage at the Mandell Weiss Theatre in the La Jolla Playhouse complex. The show runs until Dec. 17. Tickets are available by calling the Playhouse services at (858) 550-1010 or online at LaJollaPlayhouse.org. Parking is free.

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