The show was fantastic. The set list looks like it was almost identical to the show that was in Atlantic City. I just looked at the set list for that city and can’t recall hearing anything different from the D.C. show except that she also did “Could It Be Magic.” I was disappointed that she didn’t do “I Feel Love” but I guess we can’t have everything! It was great to hear “Cold Love” live. She really rocked!
When she first came out on stage (up that elevator to the sequined grand piano) the crowd went wild. She did “She Works Hard For the Money” as she was coming down the stairs, and Bruce and a couple of guys in the band helped her negotiate the stairs in those heels. The dress she wore was stunning on her.
It was fantastic to hear “Once Upon a Time” live and when she segued non-stop from “Once Upon a Time” to “I Love You,” the crowd went wild again. She dedicated the latter to her fans and it was a touching tribute to all of us who have supported her all these years. MacArthur Park (my favorite song of hers) was fabulous, and the string orchestra (which I’ll touch on later) was really great. After that came a beautifully sensuous version of “Could It Be Magic,” also a favorite of mine.
After telling us about being on the road out of the country and getting the dreaded phone call that a family member had taken ill, she talked a little about her father, how he became ill and his ultimate passing, and how difficult it was to be on the road to complete your obligations for shows and trying to be upbeat for your audience, while knowing that a family member needed you. She said it was hard to put a smile on her face and in her heart in the face of difficult times. It was from there that she began a beautiful rendition of “Smile.”
And it was there that the first mishap occurred in the show . . .
Wolf Trap is a covered outdoor venue set in the woods of Vienna, Virginia,. It was very humid last night, and all the spotlights there always attract flying creatures of all sorts. While she was in the middle of “Smile” she suddenly recoiled back and began shaking her head and running her hands up and down through her hair very violently. The orchestra kept playing but the audience became very quiet for a brief moment. I actually though maybe she had gotten stung in the face by a bee or something. It turns out that a rather large moth (or what looked like a moth) flew right into her face and surprised her and then flew into her hair and she couldn’t get it out. She finally did and then picked up where she left off on “Smile.” When the orchestra got to the instrumental bridge of the song, she looked out at the audience and said “Thank God I didn’t have my mouth opened at that moment!” The audience applauded and she continued the song to its end. It was sung very prettily and with great emotion. Even one of the older fogies behind me who apparently was not a super fan remarked, “Boy she is really good!” I couldn’t have agreed more.
After “Dim All the Lights,” my heart started pounding a little. “On the Radio” was coming up. Was she going to pick people from the audience to be her “Divos”? And of course, me being in the second row in a bright red shirt that she could not miss, I really wanted to be picked! But she didn’t pick anyone out of the audience. She had a surprise for everyone. She talked for a minute about her children, namely Brooklyn and Amanda. She pointed out that Brooklyn was on “My Wife and Kids” until this season and that Amanda was a model. Donna said that she was so excited that Amanda was gainfully employed and that it was a relief that she [Amanda] was a working girl now. Donna then touched on being a grandmother and talked a little about her grandchildren. She said that her oldest daughter, Mimi, lives in Baltimore and that she had a surprise for everyone. Mimi was in the audience with Donna’s granddaughters! Donna then pointed to the center orchestra section and the crowd went wild when they realized that Mimi was sitting there with her two girls! Donna told everyone that this was unrehearsed and she wanted the girls to come up onstage with grandma and be her backup girls. I have never seen any pictures of Donna’s grandchildren and so I was very excited to see them up close. There was also another girl on stage with them who appeared to be a playmate of the two girls. Mimi’s children are both very pretty girls, both with blond hair and bright eyes. Mimi has also grown up to be a very beautiful woman, and it’s clear that she gets her beauty from her mother. Then Donna launched into “On the Radio” and had the girls do back up. It was funny to see these three little girls dancing and singing along! They were all quite good and really enjoying themselves! Donna then went to the side of the stage and pulled Mimi from offstage to center stage to help with the backup. Mimi resisted for a brief second then smiled and took her mother’s hand and walked with her across to
center stage to join her own children. It was at that moment that my mind flashed back to the little girl inside the original “Live and More” album cover in 1978 who was standing on stage holding her mother’s hand as her mother performed for the audience. Life suddenly became a full circle.
Donna then started into the story of the “twins.” I had heard she had mentioned her “twins” in Minnesota but was surprised when she started with the “twins” reference here in D.C. She told the story about a famous female singer that she admired who she recently saw again after a long time and was shocked to see that this woman had these “enormous twins.” She said they were so big they almost didn’t look real! Donna then proceed to tell the audience that her “twins” were indeed real and she was proud of them. There were whispers and giggles through the audience of who the mysterious woman with the “twins” might be that Donna was talking about. Could it be Dolly Parton? It was right then when Donna mentioned that she was all woman and that her “twins” were natural that I knew then that she was talking about Aretha Franklin (who does have a hideously large bosom and shows way too much of them in garishly bad fitting costumes). All I could think about at that moment was that Donna the Cat DID have Claws! (Reeowwwrrr!) But it was really all in good fun. Donna then launched into a fantastic rendition of “Natural Woman” and everyone just loved it. She began it as a ballad and then just before the end of the song sped it up into a slightly danceable version. It was very well done indeed. Donna should really consider recording this. She’d have a big hit on her hands with this one!
After “Natural” Donna talked about her upcoming 25th anniversary to Bruce. She talked about her marriage being a tempestuous one, with ups and downs and hills and valleys and how she loved her husband very much. Donna said that she and Bruce talked about their anniversary, and said he asked her what she wanted him to give her as her anniversary gift. Donna then did a pause, looked coyly at the audience and said that she couldn’t repeat in public what she told him! The audience giggled and laughed at that. She then said she loved Bruce’s music, that he was a beautiful songwriter and would love to have one of his songs as a gift. She then introduced Bruce, whom she said was very shy about performing in public. Bruce came onstage while Donna went offstage (to do another costume change) and Bruce then sang Lé Imaginé Café from his CD. It was a good song and a good performance.
After the applause for his performance Bruce went back upstairs at the top of the stage to his glittering piano where his wife was waiting for him. Donna had changed into a sparkling gown and then proceeded to do the “My Man Medley.” The performance was great and had the identical tone and energy to the original recording on the “Live and More” album. The audience loved it.
After the “Medley” Donna went back off stage again, and this time the spotlight was on Mary who proceeded to do her “Oscar” monologue (talking about her boyfriend Oscar who didn’t show up for a preplanned date). Mary said to the audience that Oscar stood her up and that he didn’t know it, but Mary had tickets to the greatest concert of the century – two front row center stage tickets to “the Donna Summer show!” She then went on about how it was his mistake and that it would be his last. There was the sound of a ringing telephone. She picked it up and said “Hello?” My mind instantly flashed to “The Hostage” and I half expected the voice on the other end of the line to say, “Lady, we’ve just kidnapped your husband . . .” But then I snapped back to reality. It was Mary’s girlfriend “Yvonne” (clearly Donna offstage) on the line, and Mary proceeded into this tirade about Oscar and how he stood her up and she had these two great tickets to the Donna Summer show. “Yvonne” then said, “Girrrrrrlll l, I’m dressed and ready to go! Who needs him!” The little monologue between Mary and “Yvonne” kind of reminded me of the little monologue at the beginning of Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”
Then the second mishap of the show came forth . . .
When “Yvonne” comes on stage, she says, “Girrrrrlllll, I’m dressed and ready to go!” Donna was standing onstage about a third of the way down the staircase, obviously ready to make an entrance to show the audience that she had a new outfit on and was “ready to go!” However, the lighting technician missed his cue. Donna just stood there for quite a few seconds and finally had to say, “Hellooo!!!! Mr. Lighting Man! I’m over here!!” The crowd laughed and the lighting technician I’m sure was embarrassed that he missed his cue. Donna and Mary then proceeded to be the dueling divas on “Enough is Enough,” which was clearly a crowd favorite.
After “Enough” Donna talked a little about her early career in Germany and the productions she did in “Godspell” and “Hair” and that when she was in Germany doing these shows, there was one song that played a lot on the radio that she really liked and hoped to do someday. She then proceeded to do a fantastic rendition of “Nights in White Satin.” It was great to hear the song with an orchestra and flute player. As I said, Donna did a great cover of this, though she sang it in a lower register than I’m used to hearing her sing, and it was interesting. I think some of the big notes would have been a little more powerful if she had sung it in her middle register, but I’m not complaining. It was a great cover!
She then proceeded to do a great version of “Cold Love.” I have never heard that sung live and it was a real treat for me. Clearly many there were unfamiliar with the song, but that didn’t stop me. I was up on my feet dancing to it and singing along with her and she looked over at me and smiled, and hopefully appreciated that I knew the song and was clearly enjoying it. And I was. I’ve been a fan of Donna’s since I was 14 years old (I’m 45 now) and I know the lyrics to EVERY song she's ever recorded!
After “Cold Love” Donna introduced the members of her band. When she introduced the orchestra, I was surprised to learn that they were from the Wolf Trap Symphony Orchestra (our venue where she was playing), and had been hired to play with her during her DC gig. When she said “give it up for your hometown orchestra” the crowd cheered wildly. I finally got to see who Nathan DiGesare was when she introduced him and I secretly telepathed a message to him to get the new website up and running soon! [Note: I see today, July 6th that the site is live and online! Whoohoo!]
Donna then launched into “Bad Girls” and then “Hot Stuff” and whatever crowd had been lost during “Cold Love” instantly woke up and the whole place was simply electric. The crowd was on its feet and the energy was simply contagious. Everyone sang and danced to those two hits. Donna then said goodnight to the audience, who would not let her go. They clapped and stomped and chanted, “Donna! Donna! Donna!” And it got louder and louder.
Then the Concertmaster from the Wolf Trap orchestra stepped forward, took center stage and began to play a beautiful solo piece. It was then that I knew that The End Was Near. “Last Dance” was coming up. Donna emerged wearing another beautiful costume and began the song. The audience roar at that moment was so deafening that I’m surprised Donna could hear her music cue! Then of course everyone danced and danced to that song. As she was singing an repeat of the last verse, Donna proceeded back up the stairs to the top of the stage, stepped behind the glittering piano, and then began to be surrounded by lots of smoke. Then, just then the song ended, Donna threw her head back, raised her arm and mike into the air, and descended down the elevator into the huge cloud of smoke.
And then, just as quickly as it all began, it was over. It was thrilling, fantastic and wondrous. In short, four simple words said it all: A Magical, Mystical Night.
- Duane Haneckow, Washington, D.C.