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Love to love Donna Summer

‘Summer’ the musical comes to Boston stage

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Love to love Donna Summer
Charis Gullage (center, as Disco Donna) and the ensemble of “Summer.” PHOTO: NICK GOULD

Boston’s beloved disco daughter Donna Summer is soon to be honored on the Broadway in Boston stage in “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.” Playing at the Emerson Colonial Theatre Feb. 22–March 6, the musical begins with Summer’s origins here in Boston and uses her greatest hits to tell her empowering life story.

(left to right) Charis Gullage (Disco Donna), Brittny Smith (Diva Donna) and Amahri Edwards-Jones (Duckling Donna) in “SUMMER.” PHOTO: Nick Gould

The show stars three different Donnas, each representing the superstar at a different time in her life. “Duckling Donna,” played by Amahri Edwards-Jones, represents the teen in Boston just learning how powerful her vocal gift is. “Disco Donna,” played by Charis Gullage, illustrates how hard Summer fought against industry standards to earn the respect and opportunity she deserved. And “Diva Donna,” played by Brittny Smith, highlights the singer at her most powerful stardom, reflecting back on her life.

Smith says it’s an honor to play the disco star and even more so to introduce her to audiences. Though Summer’s music is well known, her life story has been less widely publicized. “What I find really interesting is that Donna Summer doesn’t have a biopic or a movie made about her, as of yet, in the way that the Temptations have or Tina has,” says Smith. “So it’s really nice to be a part of somebody’s first experience or introduction into Donna Summer the woman and the artist.”

Brittny Smith plays Diva Donna in “Summer: The Donna Summer

Utilizing three different versions of Summer at varying stages of her career and life ensures that audience members of any age can find a character to identify with. “Summer” is a mix between a disco party packed with dramatic glittery ensembles and danceable hits, like “Hot Stuff” and “She Works Hard for the Money,” and a poignant look at what it takes to be a star in the music industry. Summer’s challenges, with contracts and performances as well as in her personal life, are revealed as much as her love of the stage.

Summer remains a constant, vibrant presence in Boston. Each year the City of Boston throws the Donna Summer Roller Disco party and Bostonians come together to bust out their best moves in her memory. Smith says it’s an exciting honor to bring the disco star’s story to her hometown, where local audience members have a direct connection to the singer.

Brittny Smith (Diva Donna) and the female ensemble of “SUMMER.”
PHOTO: Denise Trupe

“We are celebrating the life, legacy and artistry of one of the world’s most influential cultural icons and musical legends. That’s number one,” says Smith. “We want the audiences to come and celebrate with her and feel the nostalgia and feel the happiness, and to party.”