Touring Broadway: Donna Summer Working Hard for the Money

by Britni Rachal on May 5, 2022 in Entertainment, Theatre, Austin,

Stunning vocal talent – and a lot of shimmery costumes – are on stage now through Sunday, May 8 at Bass Concert Hall in Austin.

Donna Summer is the latest part of the Broadway Across America series, which sends Broadway productions on tour throughout the country, to arrive in the Capitol City. Telling the story of the acclaimed “Queen of Disco” – the musical production showcases a cast of 23, including three actors of different age groups (Brittny Smith, Charis Michelle Gullage, Amahri Edwards-Jones) used to represent Summer throughout various points of her life.

(Center) Charis Gullage (“Disco Donna”) and the ensemble of Summer.
Photo Nick Gould

More than 20 of Summer’s classic hits are featured, including “Love to Love You Baby,” “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff” in this book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary, and Des McAnuff. An electric experience and a moving tribute to generations of the ‘60s and ‘70s, this musical is great for a teenage and up audience.

I didn’t know that much about Donna Summer’s life until watching the musical. In my opinion, the production is a reminder that everything in life is fleeting and you’ve got to enjoy the good times while they last.

(From l to r) Charis Gullage (“Disco Donna”), Brittny Smith (“Diva Donna”) and Amahri Edwards-Jones (“Duckling Donna”) in Summer. Photo Nick Gould

Often a troubled life, this musical hits on various forms of abuse that Summer endured. After the show, I was shocked to learn that there are an estimated 463,634 victims of sexual assault each year in the United States.  That’s an estimated sexual assault within the U.S. every 68 seconds. And it may not even account for unreported incidents – or the crimes happening in other parts of the world.

The unsettling reality is oftentimes women can’t feel comfortable in seemingly normal situations – like perhaps walking around at night alone – or even traveling alone. What I like about this musical is that even though various parts of Summer’s life may be difficult to watch, the musical raises awareness of problems still relevant today. Being solutions-oriented and showcasing awareness for these topics, regardless of how difficult they may be to discuss, is important to build a brighter and stronger future for all.

(From l to r) Brittny Smith (“Diva Donna”), Charis Gullage and the ensemble of Summer. Photo Denise Trupe

Even the musical seems to hint at the importance of being more vocal in these conversations. At one point in Summer’s youth, she witnesses a crime committed by someone she knew from church and during interrogation the officer tells her that people don’t expect women to speak up; they are expected “to be silent.” She quickly changes her response and tells the truth about what she saw.

Amazing talent rocks the stage throughout this performance. In many ways it’s much more interactive than other Broadway shows, almost seeming like a concert at times – with the audience even standing during certain musical scenes.

Tickets to Donna Summer start at $30 and can be purchased online.

Cover photo courtesy Denise Trupe

Britni Rachal lives in Austin, Texas. She is a freelance journalist, full-time marketer, and a Realtor®. In addition to writing, Rachal enjoys traveling, event planning, fashion, fitness and serving the Austin community.