"Love to Love You, Baby!"
It's was the 70s, a time when would-be, wanna-be singers around the world would have given their lives to hear a recording of their voice on the radio, and LaDonna Adrian Gaines was one of those kids that became a star, working hard for the money.
Widely known by her stage name Donna Summer, she gained prominence during the disco era and became known as the "Queen of Disco." Sommer's breakout song "Love to Love You, Baby," which came out in 1975, instantly became tantamount with the glory days of New York's nightclub Studio 54. Summer's, who was a singer, songwriter, actress, and painter, gained a global following with her sexy, soulful sound that captured the world.
James M. Nederlander brings the showstopping disco musical of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, which tells the story of Summer's life in three stages. Her childhood, teen recording age, and as a woman, who married Bruce Sudano and then Helmuth Sommer. The three Donnas included Diva Donna/Mary Gaines, (Dan'Yelle Williamson), Disco Donna (Alex Hairston), and Duckling Donna/Mimi (Olivia Elease Hardy) and a cast of disco dancers that had a few lines in between.
Summer, who grew up in Boston and learned to sing in church, skipped school for auditions and gets discovered. At the age of seventeen, she goes to Germany, where she gets this disco oversexualized queen image thrust upon her and becomes the singing phenomenon. However, the life of a Disco Queen, a sexy diva image which was thrust on Summer, made her very uncomfortable.
Summer's had to put aside her Christian beliefs to write the original song, "Love To Love You Baby," which broke the veil on childhood secrets. The play talks about her psychological issues and the situation where her pastor abused her as a child.
Summers, a five-time Grammy winner, were best known for hits like "Bad Girls," "On The Radio, "Hot Stuff," "Last Dance," "Dim All the Lights," and "She Works Hard for the Money." Her name will always be entwined to disco, which was an epithet she that made her feel very comfortable.
Donna Summer, whose music had an ability to get people on the dance floor like no other, at one time, had a net worth of $75 million. Many, included us, didn't realize that Summer's was also a painter and that she had some art shows that featured her work.
The legendary Donna Summer died on May 17, 2012, at the age of 63. Summer did not openly discuss her battle with cancer or asbestos exposure. Sommer's believed she contracted the illness from inhaling toxic particles released after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York. She left behind three daughters, Amanda, Brooklyn, and Mimi. The news of her sudden death took many, including her family and close friends by surprise.
There was so much more to Summer's life; her life was innately intense. She battled with racism, abuse, depression, sexism, the $10 Million lawsuits with Casablanca Records, and her relationship with the LGBTQ community. Although it seems that Director Des McAnuff, (book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary, and Des McAnuff) eluded to some of Summer's pivotal factors in her life in snippets, he did well, highlighting a catalog of her music which defined the 70s and 80s.
The scenic design started quite simple, but as the musical progressed, you were ideally back in the 70s grooving to her songs with the dancers, the silver disco ball, and the projection screen.
Let's Play 'Recommend' Summer: The Donna Summer Musical for a night of disco.
James M. Nederlander Theatre
SUMMER: THE DONNA SUMMER MUSICAL
Book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary, and Des McAnuff
Directed by Des McAnuff
FEBRUARY 12 - 23, 2020
Filed under: ChicagoNow