If Charis Gullaj were alive in the 70s, would she feel at home on the disco dance floor?
“Oh, of course,” says the star of Summer: Donna’s Summer Musical, which opens next Tuesday at Proctors and runs through Sunday, December 12th. “I love music, lights, clothes, all that glitz and glamor. … I like it all. “
Gullaj can immerse herself in this life by playing Disco Donna, one of three performers who play the role of Summer at different stages of her life. As the name suggests, Gullaj played Summer when she was at her peak in the 1970s, creating hit singles and albums that defined the era of disco.
“There are always a lot of ups and downs, but there was a lot of fun in her life and I think our show is all about celebrating the good things that happened,” said Gullaj, who pronounces her name with a hard C or K. sound. “She went on a journey, creating a completely new genre of music for herself and the artists who came after her. She had a fantastic career. “
Summer was one of the biggest musical names in the world throughout the 1970s, before the disco craze subsided in the 1980s. Her last major hit was “On the Radio”, which climbed to No. 5 on the US charts in 1979. She died in 2012 at the age of 63 from lung cancer.
“The show is not about mourning her death,” Gullaj said. “We are finishing ‘The Last Dance’ and this is the song that gets everyone in the audience to their feet. Our show is a real party in her honor. “
Summer first appeared in Gullaj’s life when she was very young.
“My dad was a musician, a bass player, so I grew up listening to her music,” said Gullage, who grew up in New Orleans. “I felt a connection with her very early in my life and I loved this connection with my father. I got in touch with him through the bass in her music. “
Gullaj’s love for performances also came into her life very early.
“I played my first play when I was 6 years old and my teachers told me that I was very good at the language for my age and that I should take up acting,” she said. “When I was 11, my mother took me with her on my first national Cats tour, and I loved it. I knew that singing and performing was what I wanted to do in my life. “
A graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, Gullage won the 2019 Big Easy Award for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard, and also received a nomination for her work in Ragtime as Sarah.
She has not been to the northeast, save for a few trips to New York, but looks forward to meeting the Proctors and Schenectady.
“I just like to say ‘Schenectady,’” she said, laughing. “I love to travel and I love the opportunity to travel and see all these wonderful theaters and all the wonderful old architecture. I have never been to Schenectady, but I look forward to seeing you. Seeing new places and old theaters is the really cool part of it all. ”
Summer: Donna’s Summer Musical premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego in November 2017 and made its Broadway debut at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on March 28, 2018. The show was honored with two Tony Award nominations and ran for 289 performances before closing on December 30, 2018.
The jukebox book was written by Colman Domingo, Robert Carey and Des McAnuff, and Summer wrote much of the music during her career with a team of collaborators including Italian composer Giorgio Moroder, known as the Father of Disco.
The Broadway cast included La Chanse, Ariana DeBoes, and Storm Lever as the three Donnes. With Gullage, the tour will feature Brittney Smith as Diva Donna and Amahri Edwards-Jones as Ducking Donna.
Smith is a Houston native and graduate of the University of South Texas, while Edwards-Jones grew up in northern Virginia and graduated from the Governor’s School of the Arts in Norfolk, Virginia.
The national tour began in September 2019 and reopened last month in Pittsburgh after closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also played in Charleston, South Carolina and this weekend at The Grand in Wilmington, Delaware, and moved to the Proctors on Tuesday.
Following a visit to Schenectady, the tour moves to Wichita, Kansas and across the country, before ending in Thousand Oaks, California in May 2022.
Summer was born in Boston on December 31, 1948 and began her singing career as the lead singer of the psychedelic rock band Crow. She moved to New York in the mid-1960s and worked as an actress, dancer and singer before moving to Europe where she performed in Hair with a German troupe.
In 1976, she released her first major American hit, Love to Love You Baby, which she co-wrote with Moroder. It climbed to # 2 on the US charts and she had 13 more singles, including “Last Dance”, “Hot Stuff” and a remake of “MacArthur Park”.
All viewers of Summer: Donna’s Summer Musical must wear masks and show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. There will be performances every evening during the show, with matinees scheduled for Thursday and Saturday.
Celebrates the return
This week’s show also marks the first major event on Proctor’s main stage since March 2020. It was Thursday, March 12 of that year, that Proctors CEO Philip Morris decided to follow Broadway’s lead and close the theater.
At the time, Morris told The Gazette that the theater would likely remain closed during the summer. He mentioned last week that he would never have believed Proctors would be inactive for 20 months.
“It was much worse than I could have imagined,” he said. “We had to drastically cut our workforce and our operations, and it was a long way back. We’re thrilled to kick off our first national tour again with the beginning of COVID, but we also need to see how our audience responds. We will comply with all COVID protocols because many people still feel uncomfortable going out. ”
Estrada is a show that unexpectedly ran for three days at Proctors that weekend in March 2020, and the next show on March 24-29 was coincidentally Summer: Donna’s Summer Musical.
Morris added that Proctors Arcade will officially open on Monday, December 6, on a limited basis, while the Apostrophe Café, located inside the Proctors complex, will be open for coffee, tea and snacks.
‘Summer: Summer Musical about Donna’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: December 7-12; performances – at 19:30 Tuesday and Wednesday, 13:30 and 20:00 Thursday, 20:00 Friday, 14:00 and 20:00 Saturday and 14:00 Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $ 90–20
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.proctors.org or call (518) 346-6204.
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Art