Three Faces of Donna: Multiple performers play Summer in guest musical | News

VALDOSTA – With hit songs like ‘She Works Hard for the Money’, ‘Hot Stuff’, ‘On the Radio’, ‘Love to Love You Baby’, ‘Last Dance’, it takes a lot to play Donna Summer .

For “Summer,” a musical touring nationally in Valdosta this week, three performers play the singer dubbed the “queen of disco.”

Brittny Smith plays “Diva Donna”, Charis Gullage plays “Disco Donna” and Amahri Edwards-Jones plays young “Duckling Donna”.

They play Summer at different points in her life and career. In earlier scenes, Smith said she had a dual role as Summer’s mother to Edwards-Jones’ young Donna.

Gullage and Edwards-Jones admit they’re too young to have experienced the heyday of the 1970s disco era, but Smith said she was a little closer to when Summer was the “queen of the disco”.

LaDonna Adrian Gaines was born in 1947 in Boston where she spent her childhood singing gospel in the church choir. She rose to fame in the disco era with a string of memorable hits from the 1970s through the 1980s. She died in 2012.

In addition to singing, Summer has written songs and performed.

The three Donnas said most people don’t realize that Summer wrote the majority of her songs.

“But she was more than the music,” Smith said.

Smith and Gullage had extensive archival material to represent Summer during the diva and disco eras of her life respectively. They also face certain expectations from audiences familiar with Summer during those famous periods of her life.

But Edwards-Jones plays Summer before fame, even before the name Donna Summer. She plays young LaDonna Adrian Gaines.

To play young Donna, she said she tried “to imagine what she would look like and what she would become”. While Smith said her “Diva Donna” looks back at where she’s been.

The musical is written in such a way that the Donnas share the stage. The three Donnas perform “Last Dance” together, for example, Gullage said.

And all three say they enjoy playing and touring together.

The show started in November and traveled across the country. Last week, when the Valdosta Daily Times interviewed the three Donnas via Zoom, they were in Augusta preparing for their series of performances in Georgia, leading up to the Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts Presenter Series scheduled for Thursday evening January 27.

Smith is the veteran of the tour. She’s performed in musicals and traveling shows for years, she said, with works that include “Dreamgirls,” “The Color Purple,” and more. She has performed in about 30 countries, she said.

“Summer” marks the first national tour for Gullage and Edwards-Jones, they said.

Smith said she offered advice for touring, performing on the road, budgeting money, and more when asked at the start of the show, but she added that it’s was practically stopped now.

But the woman who plays “Diva Donna” has plenty to share from her touring career. “Oh, I have a lot of stories to tell,” Smith said with a laugh.

The Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts Presenter Series presents “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday, January 27, Mathis City Auditorium, 2300 N. Ashley St. An optional pre-show dinner is available at 6:00 p.m. before the show. More information: Visit turnercenter.org or call Turner Center for the Arts, (229) 247-2787. “Summer” is the first show in the Presenter series with the Three Redneck Tenors scheduled for February 17 and the Greatest Piano Men on March 15.

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