The Donna Summer Tribute Site

La Jolla Reports 

November- December, 2017


These are the collected fan reports from Summer: The Donna Summer Musical playing at the La Jolla Playhouse November 7 to December 24, 2017.


My explanation of what's going on currently (from the November 12 weekly update):

"I also wanted to mention that according to Donna's official Facebook, they are "woodshedding" the musical right now - that is, they are improving it as they go. For those of you who know how musical theater works - skip ahead to the next part of the update. For those of you who don't know so much about it, let me explain the process a bit. When a musical is written, the creators hone it as much as they can before it ever gets to an audience. But then before they bring it to Broadway, they open it out of town in a place like La Jolla in order to see how an audience responds. Depending on how the play works in front of the audience - changes may be made. Maybe the book gets adjusted, maybe songs changed, but whatever needs working on gets improved. Just as an example, I'm sure many of you have heard of the classic musical Oklahoma. (It was made into a film in the 50s starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae.) Now that was a pretty successful musical, but when it opened out of town, it had a completely different title and it was missing the iconic Oklahoma title song.  You see, when they played it for audiences, they discovered that they needed a rousing song at the end to lighten up the mood after all the dark things that happened in act 2. So what I am getting at is that whatever you see in La Jolla - it could be quite different when it hits Broadway. (Or maybe not if the audience responds well to what is there.)  The other thing I wanted to mention is that no matter how much the production crew plans, they can't predict an exact date for Summer: The Donna Summer Musical to hit New York.  No matter how ready the show is for Broadway, they still have to wait for a theater to become available - meaning that something has to close first - and they will be in competition with other shows hoping to open on Broadway.  So we are all going to have to hang in there and try not to be TOO impatient. (What? Whoever heard of Donna fans being impatient?  LOL And yes, that advice is for me too!)  Also (true confession time here), I haven't really listened to anybody but Mary sing Donna's songs since 2012. So when the show does come to town, I am going to have some really mixed feelings about seeing it. I mean, I'll go - try and stop me!  But there is a part of me that is nervous about someone else singing Donna's stuff."

Here is the PDF of the playbill for the show.
[NOV 9] Christopher Blackwell, Phoenix:

Came back today from seeing the premiere of The Donna Summer musical. The La Jolla Theater was a cute classy theater. I stood in the lobby with my spouse and I saw a few of Donna's family members. I shook Bruce's hand & told him that I'm glad that this musical is finally happening & thanked him. I forgot to introduce myself. We just were facing each other & I decided to shake his hand. It was a great moment for me.

The musical started with the stories intertwined with one another. The play touched base on how Donna started singing in the church. She came from a strict and caring religious background. It discussed vaguely about Donna witnessing a crime with someone she knew. Being abused by a boyfriend. There was a vague story regarding an inappropriate relationship with a church member. Most of the stories were easy to follow. Some of the stories were a bit hard to fully understand. That would be my slight critique of some of it; If I had to pick one.

Other than that I thought the play was entertaining throughout. The music felt like it was written for the musical. I liked the fact that both hits and obscure songs from Donna's catalogue were used. I loved the fact that at least one of the intended original songs from the play " My life" was used. Using that song in the play I felt tied the whole thing together with the original play concept & the "live and more encore" from which mentioned. I felt that the cast did a great job bringing the roles to the stage. The acting wasn't so much as an imitation of the people they were playing but more of the feeling that these people invoked throughout the character lives. I felt the real emotion of the story in spite of knowing it wasn't the real Donna Summer on stage.

The play got towards the later years in her life and her untimely death and her reflection on her artistic and personal legacy. It showed a strong and powerful woman taking charge of whatever circumstances came her way. The play showed how Donna was one of the first female singers to fight the music industry. Towards the end of the play was when things got to my heart and I couldn't keep a dry eye. The play ended we went back to our motel. Unexpectedly the play is still sticking with me. Meaning that I still keep thinking about it. I even cried few times the day after the play. So I guess you can say that I took something from the play. I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to go to the world premiere of it.
[NOV 19] Patrick Driscoll:

SUMMER the Donna Summer Musical.

My review

I went to see Summer the Donna Summer Musical last night, Tuesday November 14, 2017

Having read some rough fan reviews I nearly didn’t come to the show for fear of being disappointed. However, I went. I am so thrilled I did go. The play was amazing and fantastic!

I enjoyed the show so much! The three actresses portraying Donna were outstanding. They could sing! LaChanze, Diva Donna, was the heart and soul of the show. Simply amazing. She takes you on a tour of Donna’s life. Storm Lever, who played Duckling Donna, was phenomenal in her role as young Donna and bears a striking resemblance to Mimi. Ariana DeBose plays disco Donna amazingly well. She shows how Donna went from being new in the business having to take full control of her career and ultimately her destiny.

The show was emotional and packed with music. The song list is amazing. The show was very fast paced and at times you saw all three characters on stage....and it worked. Seeing all 3 on at once was truly amazing as you could see how Donna saw herself over the years. Diva Donna LaChanze just kept the show flowing.

LaChanze was so brilliant. Never overshadowing the other characters, LaChanze has a powerful presence on stage, much like Donna. Her humor and her heart shown through.

When she told the story of the gay comment, some in the audience were startled at first, as she began to tell the story. LaChanze as Donna made it clear that her love for gay men goes way back and the storyline included her friend Brian (Brian Edwards) who helps her through the scene. She apologizes to all the fans who were hurt. Then LaChanze performs the show stopper “Friends Unknown” to thunderous applause.

I think the show is fantastic. In my opinion it’s nearly ready for Broadway. But that’s me saying that. Long time Donna Fan. My only critique would be so many women playing men’s roles in the play didn’t translate well with me. We need men in the men’s roles. Giorgio and Pete were played by women dressed as men. Donna’s preacher was played by a woman dressed as a man. Didn’t quite get the reasoning for that. And truth be told, I think men would be better in the men’s roles and give the ladies and gay men something nice to look at.

It was a magical mystical journey way through time and love. I laughed, I cried. My heart sang.
I am so thrilled I got to see the show.

After the play ended there was a small dance floor in the outdoor area as the audience left and a Donna’s Music was playing and people were dancing. I saw Bruce Sudano! I went up shook his hand and introduced myself and thanked him for the years of love and music he and Donna gave us. He was so genuinely polite and seemed happy. That was an honor for me to finally meet him.

I really hope this show goes on to Broadway and the world. It’s a story worth telling and a tribute to our Donna Summer
[NOV 19] A couple of Facebook reviews for the Facebookers out there:

Jeff Anderson

Jennifer Watkins


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