“I took this job because it was a great new challenge for me,” reveals Ariana DeBose, the star of “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.” “It gave me an opportunity to do something I’ve never done in a way I’ve never done.” The actress recently received a Tony nomination for Featured Actress in a Musical for tackling this new challenge. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
DeBose embodies ‘Disco Donna,’ one of three different versions of Donna Summer in the new Broadway show. The multi-talented performer has a great admiration for the disco diva. She first learned of Summer’s music through her mother. “My Mom and I used to ‘Donna Summer-cize’ in our living room,” she admits. Think jazzercise but with synths.
As DeBose prepared to embody the icon, she identified with Summer’s refusal to be pigeonholed. “I came into this business as a dancer primarily,” she says, and she “felt pigeonholed too.” Indeed, one of DeBose’s breakout moments was landing in the top 20 on “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2009. And while her slick moves in “Summer” rival the best dancers on Broadway, her vocals are nothing to scoff at either. Her vocal prowess is no more evident than when standing center stage during ‘MacArthur Park.’ “I feel at the top of my vocal game when I do it,” adds DeBose, of the song that also served as Summer’s way of telling the world she was a legitimate singer. “A lot of people don’t realize that I can stand and sing without moving.” After this number their minds will be changed.
DeBose also offers praise for her co-stars LaChanze (also a Tony nominee for “Summer”) and Storm Lever. They portray ‘Disco Donna’ and ‘Duckling Donna,’ respectively. “She’s a masterclass,” DeBose says of Tony winner LaChanze. When singing a role, “she accepts that her humanity is interesting enough.” The three actresses conferred with one another to offer a complete portrayal of a star who was “multiple things for millions of people.”
The Tony Award nomination took DeBose by surprise. “I burst into tears… it was not something that was on my radar.” She is thrilled by the diversity represented in her fellow Featured Actress nominees, which includes Renee Fleming, Lindsay Mendez, Ashley Park, and Diana Rigg. “None of us do the same thing,” DeBose says. With the inclusion of so many different types of women and styles of theater, the “nominations mean they’re all valid.”
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