Editor’s Note: This story originally ran Jan. 14 as the show was scheduled for Jan. 20. Because of COVID concerns it was pushed to May 31.
Amahri Jones-Edwards’ grandmother introduced the 19-year-old performer to Donna Summer’s music.
“My grandma loved ‘Last Dance,’” said Jones-Edwards who plays “Duckling Donna” or the youngest incarnation of the disco diva in the production, “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” coming to the Bell Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. May 31.
But it was Beyonce’s song “Naughty Girl” that piqued Jones-Edwards’ interest in the Queen of Disco, she said. Beyonce paid tribute to Summer by sampling her 1975 song “Love to Love You Baby.”
To prepare for her role, Jones-Edwards dove into videos of Summer’s live performances as well as recordings of the Broadway musical.
The show chronicles Summer’s life from her roots in a gospel choir in Boston to her years as the disco diva. Summer died in 2012. Three actors play Summer during the show. During numbers such as “MacArthur Park” and “Last Dance,” all three of the “Donnas” sing together.
While many of the audience members are of the age where they discoed to Summer’s music in the clubs in the 70s, younger audiences are also drawn to the show, she said, which brings that club vibe.
“It’s amazing to see people get up and dance. It feels like a concert,” she said.
Through the show, Jones-Edwards said she’s grown to respect Summer as an artist and a woman who overcame a lot of barriers in her life and the music industry.
Summer’s “Last Dance” won an Academy Award for best original song in the 1978 film “Thank God It’s Friday.” She also had multiple number one songs including “MacArthur Park,” “Bad Girls” and “Hot Stuff.”
The production contains 20 of Summer’s hits.
Jones-Edwards said it’s been a thrill to take the stage performing some of her grandmother’s favorite tunes, but what’s most exciting for her, she said, is that it represents several firsts.
“This is my first Broadway tour, and it was my first audition in New York,” she said.
And it’s been exciting for her family as well. Jones-Edwards is from Virginia, so her family will attend the Baltimore performance.
Tickets to “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” are $43-$59.25 and are available at aectix.com.