WPCNR STAGE DOOR. Theatre After-Review By John F. Bailey. April 30, 2018:
It was a “home run” roar Saturday Night I’d never heard attending Broadway shows over the last 50 years.
Louder than Phantom, Louder than Hamilton, it was the roar Yankee Stadium gave last Thursday on Gary Sanchez’s 3-run game winning homer in the bottom of the ninth.
After the hot blooded, get-in-your-soul, get-you-swayin-in-your-seats, mirrors-and-lights-dazzlin, back-beat-jerkin’, sinuous-incandescent-shoulder-dipping, booty-swingin’, twerkin’, can’t-stop-moving discosteria Hot Stuff as Hamilton’s and A Bronx Tale’s Ariana DeBose delivering Donna Summer’s signature hit, followed back to back with the last Donna summer hit, Last Dance, the crowd erupted with no polite bravos, or whoops, the mostly white audience roared at the top of their voices and roared and roared and roared. No obligatory standing ovation this was a roaring tribute to the near perfect music that revolutionized pop music in the Nixon-Ford-Carter years
Summer, the Donna Summer “jukebox musical,” (as Broadway snoots call it), has no boring moments; puts out the use-you, cheat-you, use-you-up music business of the 70s and brings the diva Donna Summer back to the bigger-than-life glamour figure she was and is again as LaChanze, Storm Lever and Ms. DeBose play the disco diva at different ages: Lever as the young teen growing up in Boston; Ms. DeBose in Ms. Summer’s height of her music popularity and LaChanze in the last twenty years of her life.
Call this a tribute show, a “Jukebox Musical,” but it is a lot more.
The musicians duplicate and enhance the Summer sound perfectly and more, with that big base disco beat that you remember, only better with none of the monotone of the old recordings. Their laying in the background of the signature seductive synthesizer swizzles holds the audience rapt. The relentless bases make your heart beat keeping with the big beat, giving a cutting edge to the startling emotions in the voices Summer’s three divas.
You get it all in Summer: the harrowing incidents in her personal life leading to the songs she sang that became smashes because people white and black identified with them. You get the romances; the toughness of Ms. Summer taking on the record business and winning. It’s great inside stuff simplified — lifting naturally into the Summer hits her life experience created.
The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre soul was awarkended, and the classic theatre walls seemed to sway to the Summer magic.
It’s a concert. It’s a fast-moving story, a love story, a family story, that moves you and keeps you moving through the songs of our lives and is relevant for the young of today and the old who were young yesterday:
Summer keeps you moving through the songs of our lives: I Feel Love, Love to Love You Baby, White Boys (you will love this one), MacArthur Park, Heaven Knows, Bad Girls, She Works Hard for the Money (Treat her right, very #MeToo), Unconditional Love, Stamp Your Feet. The hits just keep on comin’.
Travelin ‘ to New Yawk City? You want to see something that when you hit the street after it’s over you feel pumped, good, and feel 28, and are still moving to the music? Wanting to pull out your old white John Travolta suit, or get fitted for a sequined, tight-as-night gown with décolletage divine and stilettos ? Call up your Ticket-mon.