Unless you’ve lived under a rock, you’ve heard a Donna Summer song. Summer: The Donna Summer Musical premieres in Detroit at the Fisher Theater, March 8-20, and BroadwayWorld Detroit got a chance to talk about the show with Detroit native Francisco Risso. “summer East uplifting, moving, thrilling, entertaining and moving,” the dance captain replied when asked to describe the show in five words. Risso had so much more to share about the show and why Detroit theater fans should come. see it below!
Can you give our readers a brief history of yourself and your theatrical career as an introduction?
Hello Hello! I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan, but currently reside in New York! I started my career as a commercial dancer first in LA and was able to dance behind major artists like Justin Bieber, Zendaya, Todrick Hall, dance/perform in many TV commercials, and have traveled the world on cruise ships and danced in theme parks around the world! Although my theatrical career is somewhat new, I have been in Priscilla queen of the desert (Together/Young Bern), The Wizard of Oz (Together), on your feet (Ensemble/Jose Fajardo USA), Fat (Danny Zuko), and now currently on this amazing tour!
How would you describe summer in your own words?
summer is this incredible celebration of Donna’s music and her life where we remember the queen of disco and dive a little deeper into her life and watch her rise to fame! It’s 115 action-packed minutes where you can literally get out of your seat, dance to the music, and have an amazing time. It’s nostalgic, it’s exciting, it’s moving and it’s just LOTS of fun! There’s no way you can sit in your seat and not want to dance with you. This is THAT type of show.
What was your first introduction to Donna Summer’s music?
My mom loved Elvis Presley, she loved dance music from the late 80s and early 90s (like Dee-lite, La Bouche, Cece Peniston, Technotronic, Robin S, Crystal Waters), Jock Jams tape and she LOVED disco music! I remember always listening to “Last Dance” and “Hot Stuff” religiously in the car and it’s this music that I still love today! Donna was a staple on every car ride.
What would you say to someone who has no prior knowledge of Donna Summer to show them the production?
It’s kind of interesting because I’ve met people who don’t really know who she is and my first response is… “Oh, you DEFINITELY know her music!” I would tell them if you want to have a fun night, have the chance to listen to INCREDIBLE music that you will definitely recognize, see a Broadway production in your hometown while watching amazing talent tell the story of a pioneer female music that inspired the likes of Beyoncé…it’s a show you’ll want to come see!
Do you have a favorite moment and/or song on the show?
It’s tied between “MacArthur Park” and “Last Dance”! “MarArthur Park” is that pivotal moment in the show where the three Donnas come together and sing together for the first time plus the dancing and the grooves, it’s so much fun. Then “Last Dance” is just the climax that really gets everyone on their feet and everyone dancing and the audience going wild every time.
What makes this musical unique?
I just think Donna Summer was such an icon for her time and beyond. His music makes this musical unique. There are only a handful of shows where you can have the whole audience on their feet and dancing for a certain number and hear them sing throughout the show. This show is also hosted by an all-female creative team! What I liked since the introduction of summer on Broadway so far is that there is so much girl power! Donna was a truly strong and inspiring trailblazer and that female empowerment can be seen throughout this show, from the creative team to the three powerful leads and all the way through to the ensemble and crew.
Tell me about your character in the series.
Well, being in the set, I can play a few characters, which is always exciting. I play Helmuth Sommer who was Donna’s first husband she met in Germany. Donna’s famous surname “Summer” actually comes from Helmuth. I also play Norman Brokaw who is Donna Summer’s agent and was the top tycoon at the William Morris agency. He not only portrayed Donna, but also Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, among others. In addition to my characters on the show, I’m the Dance Captain of the tour and I’m very proud of all of this production.
Do you see any similarities between your character and yourself?
We don’t dive into Helmuth too much, but from what you see on the show you can tell he’s willing to sacrifice himself to make sure Donna and her daughter have the best life possible and I’m really a caretaker and a nurturer as well. Norman is nonsense keep it very real and give you tough love but he’ll have the kind of person off your back a lot and I’m also a very real friend and I ride or die through the kind of thick guy and slim too.
Would you be friends with your character in real life?
Absoutely! Helmuth was a creative type as he was an actor and musician himself so probably easy going and Norman would be a great connection and friend.
Why is it summer a good night out for Detroit theater fans?
It’s the perfect opportunity to step into the nightclub and experience an evening to remember while experiencing the moments in Donna’s life that have truly shaped who she is, her life and her career. Get carried away by the music, sing along to Donna’s greatest hits, dance all you want, and watch some very, very, very talented people telling this story with every fiber of their being. When you think of iconic artists throughout time who have truly paved the way for female artists and especially black female artists, Donna Summer is one of them. This show is packed with entertainment to have you leaving the Fisher Theater wanting to keep blasting its music on the way home.
How can readers communicate with you?
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical runs March 8-20 at the Fisher Theater in Detroit. For more information and tickets, visit www.BroadwayInDetroit.com.
Connect with Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Youtube
Connect with Broadway in Detroit
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Website | Youtube