Thanks to her grandmother, Amahri Edwards-Jones already had a pretty good idea of who Donna Summer was when she got the part as Duckling Donna and Mimi in "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical."
"My grandmother used to play 'Last Dance,' and we'd dance in the living room," Edwards-Jones said. "She loved to dance, and she loved Donna Summer."
After getting the role, the young performer said she got a crash course in disco and just who the so-called "Queen of Disco" was.
"Getting the part made me appreciate her story and her perseverance," Edwards-Jones said. "She also learned to sing in an AME church like me. She just has this great story. She went to Germany and found her voice and became a star."
Edwards-Jones said fans who attend one of the three productions of the show at Memorial Auditorium, running Tuesday through Thursday this week, will come away with a better sense of who Summer was.
"Yes, she was this big disco star, but she was also a beautiful human being. She loved performing, and she loved singing, but she also cared for others and being there for others."
The show is part of the Tivoli Broadway series presented by the Tivoli Foundation. All shows in the series will be presented at Memorial Auditorium in 2021 and 2022 because of renovation work scheduled to take place in the Tivoli beginning early next year.
Edwards-Jones is making her national tour debut after performing in Virginia Musical Theatre productions of "Freaky Friday," "Mamma Mia" and "Chicago."
If you go
— What: “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.”
— When: 7:30 Tuesday-Thursday, Nov. 30-Dec. 2.
— Where: Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.
— Admission: $38-$83.
Summer actually began her career singing with a psychedelic rock band called Crow, but after getting a part in the Musical "Hair" in Munich, she lived and worked in Germany for several years. It was there she met Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. The trio created "Love to Love You Baby" and "I Feel Love" and a star was born.
She would have more hits with "Last Dance," "Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls," "She Works Hard for the Money" and "MacArthur Park."
Summer had 42 hit singles, with 14 reaching the Top 10. From 1975 to 1984, she had at least one Top 40 hit each year. In all, she sold more than 100 million records worldwide, and she won five Grammy Awards.
She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, a year after succumbing to lung cancer.
Edwards-Jones said the show is filled with all of the hits people expect, as well as plenty of dancing.
"It is so much fun," she said.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
What critics have written about “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”
“The audience reaches a fever pitch.”
— Entertainment Weekly
“The audience craves it with an intensity I don’t recall ever seeing before.”
— Chicago Tribune
“Don’t miss it. A vibrant and sparkling homage to the queen of disco. It’s the perfect place to dance to your favorite disco hits by the diva!”
“Pure bliss. An ebullient era in music! It gives the trailblazing songstress her rightful place in pop culture.”
— The Hollywood Reporter