Love to Love you, SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical!

Student blogger Owen Fitzpatrick returns to give us his take on SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical, playing March 31 – April 3 at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts.

She might be talking about Bad Girls who Work Hard for the Money or dancing the Last Dance to a song On the Radio, but no matter how much she says she’ll Love to Love you, Baby, Heaven Knows that at her core, Donna Summer was so much more than just a girl from Boston with the voice of an angel. 

Brittny Smith as “Diva Donna,” Charis Gullage as “Disco Donna” and Amahri Edwards-Jones as “Duckling Donna" are standing together on stage, looking into the camera with their right arms outstretched as they sing.
Charis Gullage (“Disco Donna”), Brittny Smith (“Diva Donna”) and Amahri Edwards-Jones (“Duckling Donna”) in SUMMER. © Nick Gould

Selling over one million records worldwide, she is one of the best selling artists of all time. Dubbed the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer was a groundbreaking performer. Over the course of her career, she was nominated for 18 Grammy Awards. She is the only recording artist in history to win Grammy Awards in four different genres: R&B, Rock, Dance and Gospel. She was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. During her posthumous induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, she was called “the mother of modern dance music.” Even though folks at every wedding will hit the dance floor for Donna Summer’s “Toot toot, hey, beep beep,” musical historians will tell you that “I Feel Love” is her greatest musical contribution. Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s “I Feel Love” is the blueprint for every modern electronic dance hit. It was the first song in history to put a synthesizer in the center of a dance track. In this way, the synthesizer was no longer a throwaway instrument in a pop song. Forty-four years later, “I Feel Love” still mesmerizes a techno crowd and still feels modern. The sound is purposefully hypnotic. Bands like New Order and Depeche Mode name this song among their top influencers.     

The jukebox style musicals that focus on the life of an artist have been among my favorite shows at The Hanover Theatre. Over the past few years, The Hanover Theatre has brought On Your Feet! The Story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and The Jersey Boys, which tells the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons to Worcester. Complainers will tell you that examining the lives of these artists through the lens of a Broadway show will gloss over the crux of their lives. I disagree. Yes, Donna Summer faced some major personal challenges including abuse, addiction, depression, racial discrimination, and a cancer diagnosis, but a broadway show isn’t structured to address all of this personal trauma. I suspect we will see some of it, but not all of it. The stage-filtered insight to her life offers a spectacle of immersion that you can’t find in a memoir or biography. It is a completely different experience, comparable only against itself. The theater offers an invitation to its audience to become part of the story. We view theater as individuals with the intimate awareness that we are part of a collective. Together with the strangers around us, we gasp, laugh or feel more alive in deafening silence. Books are incapable of moving you in the same way. 

I’m very excited to see “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical’‘ this weekend at The Hanover Theatre with my family. I can’t wait to hear that voice replicated on stage. 

Owen Fitzpatrick