Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (NYC)
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Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (NYC)
76

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (NYC) NYC Reviews and Tickets

76%
(571 Reviews)
Positive
78%
Mixed
15%
Negative
7%
Members say
Great singing, Entertaining, Delightful, Disappointing, Great staging

About the Show

After an extended run in La Jolla, the new musical about the 70s disco queen hits Broadway with a score featuring more than 20 of Summer’s classic hits including “Love to Love You, Baby,” “Bad Girls,” and “Hot Stuff."

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Member Reviews (571)

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83
Fun!, Entertaining, Great singing, Great music

See it if you like Donna Summer and want to know a bit more about her. Great talent! Fun!

Don't see it if you want a lavish polished production. This is for joyful entertainment, not thought-provoking "art".

35
Excruciating, Cliched, Banal, Disappointing, Awful!

See it if You like Lifetime movies that gloss over all facts that ever show the star in any kind of unflattering way. See this for the pretty lights.

Don't see it if You want to hear Summers music or see her story. Both are butchered. Bits of songs poorly strung together to make up an unbearable story.

Critic Reviews (49)

The New York Times
April 23rd, 2018

"Despite the exciting vocalism of a cast led by the formidable LaChanze, it reduces the late Queen of Disco and pioneer of electronica to a few factoids and song samples that make her seem profoundly inconsequential...I found myself asking throughout the show’s intermission-less 100 minutes: Can’t they do any better than this?...The show over all skitters away from almost everything even slightly awkward or troubling — and thus interesting — about Ms. Summer’s life and career."
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Time Out New York
April 23rd, 2018

"Three talented and blameless women play the late Donna Summer in a tacky, sub-Vegas jukebox biomusical...At its most watchable, the show plays like a barely dramatized adaptation of Summer’s Spotify and Wikipedia pages. But when it’s bad, it’s so, so bad...The general level of befuddled kitsch is raised by the bizarre background presence of a nearly all-female ensemble which spends much of the show in boxy drag-king suits and clumpy short wigs."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
April 23rd, 2018

"Thanks to the swift, smart construction of 'Summer,' which neither overburdens its material nor overstays its welcome, it’s a pretty damn good time. 'Summer’s' book is sometimes predictable, sometimes sentimental, and every so often pushes unsubtly on its central image. But it’s also uptempo, fluently interwoven with the show’s songs, and often genuinely funny...Has its dips...All in all, though, 'Summer' does well at moving us through both the bright and dark spots in its hero’s life."
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The Hollywood Reporter
April 23rd, 2018

"A feebly dramatized Wikipedia page with lackluster covers...This dramaturgically inept show either short-changes or outright massacres Summer's music; undervalues her achievements...completely fails to contextualize her legacy; glosses over her massive gay fan base; and rams its female-empowerment message down your throat...More like a 'Saturday Night Live' parody of a jukebox musical...The hack-job direction is matched by Sergio Trujillo's bland choreography."
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Entertainment Weekly
April 23rd, 2018

"Delivers the seasonal sunshine. It just doesn’t also bring a whole lotta depth...Of course, the music is terrific; Donna Summer isn’t the undisputed Queen of Disco for nothing. But this production lives or dies on the shoulders of its three Donnas — and they are incredible...Toe-tappingly familiar songs, stellar performances, shiny costumes, and a reminder of the impact of its subject on the music industry at large. It’s also a little thin on story."
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Variety
April 24th, 2018

"A narrow-minded jukebox musical that views its titular heroine in a vacuum. The great songs are pretty much all here...LaChanze is here, too, and in glorious voice, along with a thin biographical book that hardly does justice to Summer's life or her music...Despite some good songs and uplifting vocals from her backup singers, LaChanze is pressed to carry the whole show on her back...Laughs are few and far between...The song lyrics, not the spoken dialogue, are what matter in this show."
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The Wall Street Journal
May 6th, 2018

"A comic book set to top-40 tunes...So vacuous that I was reduced to helpless giggling almost before I got settled...On the other hand, the band is hot, the sets are slick, Trujillo’s dances are super-smooth, and you get to spend pretty much the whole evening listening to and looking at LaChanze to which there is no downside. Best of all, 'Summer' runs for an hour and 40 minutes with no intermission, meaning that you’ll be out the door almost before you lose your patience—but not quite."
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Deadline
April 23rd, 2018

"As unimaginative as its title...Cooks up some excitement during the musical performances of hits, but mostly the songs come off as well-delivered covers, evoking little of the subversive, decadent ecstasy of the Studio 54 era...The book’s shallow treatment of even the most serious events – is one-upped by the distraction of having many of the minor (and a few not so minor) male characters played by the female chorus ensemble, in campy, sketch-comedy drag."
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Chicago Tribune
April 23rd, 2018

"A valedictory experience, not an honest story, only tolerable for die-hard fans...Summer’s music is perfect for this treatment by Des McAnuff: her voice came with perfect pitch and a driving, irony-free intensity that was, in its disco moment, peerless...It is a cliche for critics to announce about musicals with less-than-distinguished books, and this is one such show with an especially egregious hole in Act 2, that the audience didn’t care...The audience did not just respond to the music, it craved it."
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New York Post
April 23rd, 2018

"Borderline incoherent. It turns a complex woman’s life into a hagiography, a slide show of events minus context or emotion...You’d think the songs would redeem this show...But some of the tunes here — including a rendition of 'No More Tears' Summer belts out while being beaten by her German ex — are hard to enjoy. Des McAnuff, who gives us more ups and downs than a heart monitor, directed this mess...He seems to have Scotch-taped together some wonky ideas."
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New York Daily News
April 23rd, 2018

"It took three writers for the bummer of a script for this show at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Fortunately, Summer's numerous dance-o-licious high-energy hits are still as contagious and irresistible as ever...The show actually gets off to a groovy start in every sense...But 'Summer' soon gives off a chill with its formulaic, finesse-free stream of trauma, triumph, tragedy — repeat...McAnuff's staging, meanwhile, is superslick but miscalibrated."
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AM New York
April 23rd, 2018

"LaChanze lends a dynamic leading presence...Director Des McAnuff has some interesting ideas, including the nonlinear structure and having women playing many of the male roles, commenting on gender roles and inequality. But for the most part, the show is rough in form, rushed in pace, sanitized in content, superficial in characterization and self-glorifying in tone...Broadway’s jukebox musical model has a special way of turning artistic potential into embarrassment."
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NY1
April 23rd, 2018

“There's no shortage of vocal talent and that's the best thing I can say about the jukebox musical…The story of how the famed Queen of Disco ended up at the top of the charts is poorly told. But, fortunately, the music's the thing here, and on that front the show does not disappoint…The tunes that shot her to stardom in the '70s are thrillingly performed by a phenomenal trio of actresses…I would have loved to love this one, but despite some hot performances, ‘Summer’ was just lukewarm.”
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Theatermania
April 24th, 2018

"The joyful disco extravaganza shakes up the recipe just enough to remind us that there's more than one way to get flavor out of the Broadway biomusical. Having women as phenomenally talented as the three sharing the title role spices things up as well...The entire chorus of 'Summer' is composed of women...It's a clever theatrical move that cuts the self-seriousness with a little light-hearted camp."
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BroadwayWorld
April 24th, 2018

"You won't want to miss any of the sizzling vocals and terpsichorean joyfulness lighting up the Lunt-Fontanne. This is the smartest, slickest, most entertaining jukebox bio-musical to hit town since 'Jersey Boys'...The bulk of the singing and dancing responsibility goes to DeBose, who scorches the stage with her dynamic presence as Disco Donna...'Summer' is decidedly not an in-depth biography, but rather offers peeks of the artist's private life while focusing on performances of hits."
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Lighting & Sound America
April 30th, 2018

"Any show that stars LaChanze can't be all bad, although, in the case of 'Summer,' it's not for lack of trying...It is little more than a greatest-hits concert interrupted by lead-ins and crossovers that provide a skimpy, nuance-free outline of the singer's life...The book brings up troubling issues only to drop them, preferring to hopscotch around the singer's life in nonlinear fashion, a bewildering approach that leaves one wondering if the playlist was assembled first and various scenes fitted around it."
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Talkin' Broadway
April 23rd, 2018

"Only LaChanze has the experience, commanding presence, and powerhouse vocal cords to convince us that Donna Summer was a force to be reckoned with...If only director Des McAnuff had made an effort to come up with a less generic production and a better script than the culled-from-Wikipedia one...Even diehard fans who are willing to put up with the lame script will be disappointed when they find that many of the 23 songs in the program are offered up as truncated excerpts."
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New York Stage Review
April 23rd, 2018

"You’ll forgive librettists Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and director Des McAnuff for their lamer lines and more awkward transitions, and be sucked into the sheer joy generated by a woman who still doesn’t get enough credit for repeatedly defying expectations, boundaries, and stereotypes...If there’s some hokum here, McAnuff smartly avoids getting mired in the darker aspects of Summer’s story; that approach wouldn’t suit the form."
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New York Stage Review
April 23rd, 2018

"The performances are frequently electric, and the songs sound spectactular, but any attempt to learn something about Summer’s life, to understand what drove her, to gain a deeper era understanding of the disco era, comes and goes as quickly and lightly...Each episode is given equal weight...and thus nearly no weight at all...What’s oddest is that the musical is trying to tell a story or make a point at all. It clearly wants to be nothing more than a concert, and that’s when it’s at its best."
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Broadway News
April 23rd, 2018

"The hits are all here...Fine as they all are, the musical cannot overcome a fatal flaw in its conception: Summer’s voice was one of the greatest, and most distinctive, of her era, and when you hear LaChanze and DeBose singing her songs, your mind may click over to the recorded versions Summer herself made immortal, and note the discrepancy...Summer’s big disco hits do not lend themselves to the depiction of her life story. They mostly feel shoehorned in with a crowbar."
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TheaterScene.net
April 30th, 2018

"Though there are appealing sequences, it’s ultimately an inconsequential treatment of the beloved and iconoclastic pop figure’s life story...The workmanlike book credited to Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff ticks off milestones by rote with facile vignettes...The workmanlike book credited to Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Des McAnuff ticks off milestones by rote with facile vignettes...McAnuff’s presentation is of calculated professionalism absent of spontaneity or joy."
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Theater Pizzazz
April 23rd, 2018

"Admittedly provides a strong showcase for the three fabulous females who share the title role...And (perhaps this goes without saying) if you have fond memories of the decade when Summer’s tunes dominated the charts, you will enjoy the opportunity to hear these songs all again. Otherwise, quite sadly, 'Summer' is the musical of our discontent: a sloppily assembled 100-minute tuner with the depth of a Wikipedia entry, a shaky structure, and a rather shocking lack of imagination."
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CurtainUp
April 27th, 2018

"Another ho-hum biographical romp through a popular musician's catalogue...The two main Donnas and the less often on scene Little Duckling are terrific...Much of the dialogue is rather pedestrian. The libretto just doesn't hang together smoothly or clearly. Serious issues...are glossed over...Dance routines do get to be more than a little repetitive. That said 'Summer' does end on a rousing note with 'Hot Stuff' and the 'Last Dance' that nudged even me out of my seat."
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Front Row Center
April 27th, 2018

"What 'Summer' does brilliantly is remind us why LaDonna Adrian Gaines was the Disco Queen...It may not have the most scintillating book, but that's not why anybody bought tickets...Nothing feels dated. Costumes are cheeky and fun...Choreography is fresh and exciting...Not only are the production values au courant, but the issues and themes are very relevant as well...LaChanze is simply unmatched vocally...DeBose was superb."
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Front Mezz Junkies
May 10th, 2018

"It works on a certain Times Square tourist attraction level, but as theatre, even as a jukebox musical, it fails to rise above the material. That being said, it is great to hear some of these golden songs again...LaChanze was absolutely the best and most exciting thing in this quick 100 minute musical, lazily directed by Des McAnuff...The book does little to flesh out the story of this young singer’s rise to fame beyond the obvious. It feels as generic as a Wikipedia read or an after school special."
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Exeunt Magazine
May 7th, 2018

“Full of the classic superstar struggles including loneliness, drug dependency and PR gaffes but the dark side is so coyly and politely tackled that this portrait remains resolutely superficial. Yet for all its narrative shortfalls, it’s a joyous, thrilling night out with excellent leads and an energetic ensemble cast, that will make you yearn to dance like no one is looking...The main complaint as the audience headed out was that not enough of her famous hits were included.”
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T
May 17th, 2018

“A relatively respectable attempt to pay tribute to the music. This is achieved by the consummate performances of Lever, DeBose, and LaChanze...Singularly or together, they fuse their vocal virtuosity, conjure up the spirit and presence of the legendary songstress...Although McAnuff has put together a slick production, the streamlined biography that is provided by the inept book...reduces the proceedings to the level of an extravagant Las Vegas lounge act."
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Broadway Blog
April 30th, 2018

"The men (how ironic) tasked with bringing your life to the stage have mostly missed the mark on curating the impactful touchpoints of your incredible journey, instead, including nearly every passing moment in a vertigo-inducing array of vignettes that overlap versions of yourself...While the creative team may have been stacked with men, they smartly cast a kick-ass ensemble of women who play men in an exciting twist of gender-bending. If only the musical’s book was as innovative. "
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Theatre's Leiter Side
April 26th, 2018

“A determinedly energetic, if clichéd and formulaic, 100-minute tribute to the life of Donna Summer…Three faultless, exceptional performers play Donna Summer…Offers little that's new to the biographical juke box format…Not destined to be a classic, nor is it even in the class of something similar, like 'Jersey Boys'...Donna Summer's music may never have been intended for Broadway but, if you like her songs you're going to have a good time.”
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DC Theatre Scene
April 23rd, 2018

"It’s probably inaccurate to say that most theatergoers would be disappointed by 'Summer: The Donna Summer Musical'; – because few would expect much in the first place from yet another commercial bio drama jukebox musical. That it falls short of its potential is only surprising because of the creative team behind it...'Summer' touches on any of this (if at all) — along with almost everything else about her life — as if checking off biographical nuggets culled from a Wikipedia entry."
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Times Square Chronicles
April 28th, 2018

"Part of the problem is the book, which took three writers...to turn Summer’s life into a overstuffed PC, religious nightmare. They gloss over the controversial alienation of her LGBT fans, as well as other key elements in Summer's life. McAnuff’s direction is a shamble and he has the primarily all-female ensemble, dressed in male drag and the male’s dressed in female drag, which doesn’t create the desired effect...The show comes off as cheap and not inventive."
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The Wrap
April 23rd, 2018

"Very much a concert, the songs don’t help to tell the story. They do help to break up the monotony, not that the music itself is in any way varied...What brings much-needed variety are the extraordinary singing voices of the three actresses who portray the star...Unfortunately, Trujillo and McAnuff’s handling of the three Donnas looks downright lame. Three little white boxes keep popping up from the stage floor, raising each performer a few feet higher or letting each of them sink."
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
April 27th, 2018

"If you are after an in-depth look at the life of Donna Summer, you won’t get that in the sketchy book...But if you just want to hear a reprise of Donna Summer’s hits, you’ll get that big time via the superb voices of the three performers who play the disco star...The account of Summer’s turbulent life is shallow, with representative scenes dutifully interspersed...Perhaps the juke box musical genre isn’t the platform for deep exploration...It is the singing that counts."
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The Stage (UK)
April 23rd, 2018

"Staged with ruthless efficiency by director Des McAnuff...The tracks are largely distributed between three ages of Summer, which is a clever way of sharing the load. The staging is far more glossy than gritty, though, with furiously busy projections by Sean Nieuwenhuis setting the ever-changing scene. But I’m not sure this amiable show – more slick Las Vegas revue than a fully-functioning musical – will be remembered next week, let alone forever."
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Stage Left
April 23rd, 2018

"This show strips those songs of the pure joy they possess, and drops them into a dull and lifeless account of a fascinating and lively personality...This format proves to be an unfocused, rushed, and superficial way to tell the story of one woman and her music...A flat and soulless jukebox tribute to the 'Queen of Disco' that disgraces the genre she created by offering thin orchestrations...LaChanze’s radiant performance is not enough to salvage this joyless and unfocused show."
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DC Metro Theater Arts
April 26th, 2018

"Feels more like an excuse for a glossy big-talent tribute concert (though not of the look-alike/sound-alike variety) than a substantive dramatic narrative or an illuminating reflection on the real person behind the 'Queen of Disco' persona...Throughout the show, there is little emotional or psychological depth or exposition (you can get more detailed information by simply Googling Donna Summer)...Where 'Summer' shines is in the powerhouse voices of the leads."
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Cabaret Scenes
May 10th, 2018

"The hot stuff comes toward the end of 'Summer,' but, on the way, there’s some impressive vocal talent delivering 23 catchy dance faves...'Summer' disappoints with a clumsy skim-through book...Performing her story are three fine singers...Unfortunately, the story has glamour and religion, but no emotion. Choreography by Sergio Trujillo is vigorous, but not exceptional...The high point is the ebullient finale of 'Hot Stuff' and 'Last Dance,' with Howell Binkley’s pulsating strobe lights."
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Newsday
April 23rd, 2018

"Little more than a glorified concert...The timeline, from early days in recording studios, to abusive husbands and ministers, to bouts of depression and grave illness, is hard to follow, bouncing illogically over the years...What saves all this, of course, is the celebration of the music...Never mind that these songs sometimes show up without moving the story along...There are moments of pure emotion in the show."
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Manhattan Digest
April 23rd, 2018

"McAnuff has bastardized her discography...You're unlikely to see a bigger misfire on a NY stage at the moment...With McAnuff, Domingo, and Cary's aimless book, it's painfully obvious that their story is going 'Faster and Faster to Nowhere'...Three variations of Summer are embodied throughout...This trio is in top voice. In spite of the jerry-built material, they bring a vital and much-needed ingredient of phenomenal talent to the stage...A harmful blow to good taste as well as to the wallet."
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Diandra Reviews it All
April 24th, 2018

"'Summer' has so many reasons for its success. First, its book plays as an aspirational musical...DeBose as 'Disco Donna', LaChanze as 'Diva Donna,' and Lever as 'Duckling Donna' give the legend such a warm hopefulness that their varying looks become one in their singular, 'Summer' personality...The second reason for the show's success as a musical, is, of course, the music...A sappy, starry musical."
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Off Script with Dan Dwyer
May 31st, 2018

"Despite its potential, 'Summer: The Donna Summer Musical' not only takes the jukebox musical backwards but also renders as uninteresting as possible the life of the Queen of Disco...With slick stagecraft, McAnuff grafts into the book 23 musical numbers recorded (and in many cases co-written) by Summer, most of which are her instantly recognizable Billboard hits, but it’s as if her pop songs had nothing to do with the exploding gay culture from which they emerged."
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Medium
April 27th, 2018

"If you are a real Summer fan you would have a much better evening reading her Wikipedia page with a Spotify playlist...Attempts to use Summer's songs to tell her life story...Book writers do seem to not care about accuracy, controversy, clarity, or telling her life in order...One of the worst books for a musical...The music is good and thankfully our trio of Donnas do quite a good job...What made 'Summer' almost unbearable was the dialogue, the direction, and the scenic design."
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StageZine
April 26th, 2018

"Blame it on the scattershot, ineffective book and the choppy direction by Mr. McAnuff...All three women do justice to Ms. Summer’s vintage hits, but of course no one could ever replicate the late singer’s inimitable, multi-octave vocal range, but Ms. Lever, Ms. DeBose and LaChanze are all outstanding in their own right regardless...The most puzzling and downright offensive fault of 'Summer' is its depiction, and lack thereof, regarding Donna Summer’s enormous gay male following."
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M
April 23rd, 2018

"Has all the winning ingredients to be a mega-Broadway hit but it melts into a sticky icing flowing goo...There wasn't enough spark. The three incredible lead performers were sensational...The biopic musical...didn't work hard enough to move an audience to get up and dance except for the show-stopping finale...The show has a niche audience who'll come to hear their favorites heard on the radio and relive their glory days."
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F
April 23rd, 2018

"You must resign yourself to the fact that this is a musical with little plot and no substance and when you inevitably must learn to sit giddily in the delusional comforts of a musical made for Donna’s sake and Donna’s sake only...It may look like a perfect installation of the vacancies and cringe-worthy clichés that plague jukebox musicals. Its design may seem to hinge on a few painfully repetitive gags...Yet, somehow by the end of the musical, I was on my feet, silly with laughter."
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Labor Press
May 2nd, 2018

"Three actresses share the role of Summer...The chemistry of the three is so strong that folks in the aisles jumped up, and stomped their feet, and clapped their hands throughout the performance...It captivates and entertains the audience...The talented trio of LaChanze, DeBose, and Lever invigorates the audience through their stellar performances...If you want an entertaining, toe-tapping musical...there is no doubt this is one for you and the whole family. Go see 'Summer.'"
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Journal Inquirer
April 26th, 2018

"Possibly the worst musical of the year...There is an interesting creative concept that works for the show that I did like, and that is the use of three different actresses to represent three different parts of Summer’s life...The problem with 'Summer' is the story. Told as a series of flashbacks by Diva Donna, the show plays as more of menagerie or montage of Summer’s life without a compelling thorough narrative that offers any serious lasting drama."
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The Culture Mom
April 27th, 2018

"Brought me to my feet...I was riveted by the music, the story, the performances, and memories of disco...The three actresses get that exactly right, each holding her own as they go song by song, through her spectacular recordings...I say go see it. Everyone around me was clapping, singing, and you could feel the energy from everyone who wanted to jump up in the room to start dancing."
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CultureSonar
July 21st, 2018

"Much more than a memorable medley of dance tunes. At least for some of us, LaChanze’s covers especially are going to trigger some fairly intense flashbacks...I can also testify that I was one of hundreds experiencing a giddy delirium when blinded by a hailstorm of silver sequins during a particularly intoxicating rendition of 'Hot Stuff.' Summer is nothing if not communal. For those unfamiliar with Summer’s own story, this show offers a family-friendly run-down."
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