La Jolla Playhouse Announces Cast & Creative Team For “Donna Summer Musical”


Tony Award winner LaChanze (Broadway’s The Color Purple, Once on This Island) as “Diva Donna,” in SUMMER: THE DONNA SUMMER MUSICAL.

La Jolla Playhouse announces the cast and creative team for its world-premiere production of SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical, featuring book by Colman Domingo, Robert Cary and Playhouse Director Emeritus Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy); directed by Des McAnuff; choreographed by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo (Memphis, Jersey Boys), with musical supervision by Ron Melrose. The production will run in the Mandell Weiss Theatre November 7 – December 17. Tickets are available by calling Playhouse Patron Services at (858) 550-1010 or online at

The cast will feature three acclaimed actresses in the role of Donna Summer: Tony Award winner LaChanze (Broadway’s The Color Purple, Once on This Island) as “Diva Donna,” Ariana DeBose (Broadway’s A Bronx Tale, Hamilton) as “Disco Donna” and Storm Lever(Playhouse’s Freaky Friday) as “Duckling Donna.”

They are joined by Mackenzie Bell as “Giorgio,” Kimberly Dodson as “Dara/Amanda,” Anissa Felix as “Adult Mary Ellen,” Drew Foster as “Brian,” Ari Groover as “Ami,” Afra Hines as “Maid/Michael,” Aaron Krohn as “Neil,” Jenny Laroche as “Pastor/Norm,” Wonu Ogunfowora as “Mary Ellen/Brooklyn,” Rebecca Riker as “Bob/Don,” Christina Robinson as “Adult Dara,” Ken Robinson as “Andrew Gaines,” Jessica Rush as “Joyce,” Kaye Tuckerman as “Pete” and Jared Zirilli (Broadway’s Lysistrata Jones) as “Bruce Sudano,” along with swings Aurelia Michael and Andra Caston.

The creative team includes UC San Diego faculty member and former La Jolla Playhouse Artist-in-Residence Robert Brill (His Girl Friday, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots), Scenic Designer; Tony Award winner Paul Tazewell (Side Show, Hollywood), Costume Designer; multiple Tony Award winner Howell Binkley (Jersey Boys, Come From Away), Lighting Designer; Tony Award winner Gareth Owen(Come From Away, The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Sound Designer; Bill Brendle, Orchestrations; Victoria Theodore, Music Director/Conductor; Shirley Fishman, Dramaturg; Tara Rubin, Casting; and Andrew Neal, Stage Manager

“Led by three powerhouse actresses in the title role, the cast of this dazzling new musical is poised to give full, glorious voice to the story and music of Donna Summer,” said Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley. “In addition to our Director Emeritus Des McAnuff, SUMMER also reunites Playhouse audiences with a ‘dream team’ of designers whose work has been seen in dozens of memorable productions.”

This vibrant, world-premiere musical charts the incomparable life of Donna Summer, the undisputed Queen of Disco, from her modest Boston childhood to international stardom.

Told through the dramatic lens of her final concert, SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical presents the complexities and conflicts the iconic songwriter and singer faced in her meteoric rise – and descent. Featuring three actresses in the title role and a score with more than 20 of Summer’s classic hits, including “Love to Love You, Baby,” “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff,” this electric experience is a moving tribute to the voice of a generation. Playhouse Director Emeritus Des McAnuff, acclaimed for creating unforgettable theatrical events from indelible popular music in such shows as Jersey Boys and The Who’s Tommy, returns to the Playhouse with a production that will combine stirring drama with the propulsive, kinetic heart of a rock concert.

LaChanze won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2006 for The Color Purple. Other Broadway credits include Once on This Island (Tony and Drama Desk nominations), If/Then, Ragtime, Company and Uptown It’s Hot. Off-Broadway, she has appeared in Dessa Rose (Obie Award and Drama Desk Award nomination), The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (Drama Desk Award nomination) and Inked Baby. Other theatre credits: The Wiz, Baby, From the Mississippi Delta and Spunk. Film credits include The Help  (SAG Award), Side Effects, Breaking Upwards, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Disney’s Hercules, For Love or Money and Leap of Faith. TV credits include Handel’s Messiah Rocks (Emmy Award), Lucy (CBS TV movie), Law & Order: SVU, Sex and the City, New York Undercover and The Cosby Show.; Twitter: @lachanze.

Ariana DeBose recently wrapped up her run as Jane in Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale directed by Jerry Zaks and Robert De Niro.  Her other credits include Hamilton (Off-Broadway and original Broadway cast), Leading Player in the Tony-winning revival of Pippin, Mary Wilson of the Supremes (Diana Ross cover) in Motown, Nautica in Andy Blankenbuhler’s Bring It On the Musical and Sondheim’s Company with the NY Philharmonic. Her TV credits include: Blue Bloods (CBS), The Breaks (VH1), SYTYCD top 20 season 6 (Fox) & OLTL Star-Crossed Lovers Series. Instagram & Twitter @arianadebose

Storm Lever recently appeared in La Jolla Playhouse’s hit production of Freaky Friday. She has appeared off-Broadway as Dorothy in The Wringer (City Center). Other New York theatre includes Jade in Fashion Academy (Vital Theater) and Meredith in Good Swimmer (Prototype Festival). Workshop: The Donna Summer Project. Regional credits include Savannah in Freaky Friday (Signature Theater, VA); understudy in Emotional Creature (Berkeley Rep); Siren in Kansas City Choir Boy (Arsht Center, FL). Education: B.F.A., University of Michigan.

The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is internationally-renowned for creating some of the most exciting and adventurous work in American theatre, through its new play development initiatives, its innovative Without Walls series, artist commissions and residencies. Currently led by Artistic Director and 2017 Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley and Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg, the Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and reborn in 1983 under the artistic leadership of Des McAnuff. La Jolla Playhouse has had 28 productions transfer to Broadway, garnering 38 Tony Awards, among them the currently-running, Tony Award-nominated hit Come From Away, along with Jersey Boys, Memphis, The Who’s Tommy, Big River, as well as Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays and the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, both fostered as part of the Playhouse’s Page To Stage Program.

Now Playing – December 24

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