“After I’m unhealthy, I’m so, so unhealthy,” Donna Summer sang in “Final Dance,” and that completely describes the new Broadway musical about her life.
“Summer,” which opened Monday, is borderline incoherent. It turns a fancy lady’s life right into a hagiography, a slide present of occasions — Boston childhood, stint in Europe, fame, motherhood, sickness — minus context or emotion.
Three ladies play her at completely different factors in her life, which they narrate like Bible passages. Storm Lever’s Duckling Donna, Ariana DeBose’s Disco Donna and LaChanze’s Diva Donna are wonderful, particularly DeBose (late of “Hamilton”), and so they sing the heck out of “MacArthur Park,” “I Really feel Love,” “On the Radio” and extra. Bother is, in addition they play the girl’s mom, mates and sisters. Protecting observe of the double casting is a wrestle.
You’d suppose the songs would redeem this present. Summer sang among the finest dance music of all time, and 23 traditional numbers are jammed into lower than two hours. However among the tunes right here — together with a rendition of “No Extra Tears” Summer belts out whereas being crushed by her German ex — are onerous to get pleasure from.
Des McAnuff, who offers us extra ups and downs than a coronary heart monitor, directed this mess. Remarkably, he’s the identical man who made successful out of “Jersey Boys.” This time he appears to have Scotch-taped collectively some wonky concepts, comparable to having ladies play producers David Geffen and Giorgio Moroder. That may have been superb if McAnuff really dedicated to it, however Casablanca Data president Neil Bogart is performed by a dude, as are Summer’s lovers, so no matter level McAnuff was making an attempt to make is misplaced.
For a present that brazenly encourages theatergoers to face up and dance, their solely actual alternative to take action comes on the finish and lasts all of three minutes. Earlier than then, we get some awkward enterprise concerning the anti-gay remarks Summer reportedly made at a 1983 live performance. Though she denied she’d stated them on the time, lots of her most devoted followers had been upset. In “Summer,” the singer, who died of lung most cancers in 2012, gives a proof, an apology and a declaration of how a lot she loves her homosexual followers. True or not, it’s an affordable second.
Sufficient is sufficient!