By Frankie Kujawa
Polish off those disco balls, Charm City, because Summer: The Donna Summer Musical has the "Hot Stuff" to melt away your winter blues! Running from Tuesday, February 15th through Sunday, February 20th, at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre, the music and story of the Queen of Disco will have audiences dancing in their seats. Performer, Robert Ayala, sits down to chat about the upcoming performance, as well as the enduring legacy of Donna Summer.
She was a girl from Boston with a voice from heaven, who shot through the stars from gospel choir to dance floor diva. But what the world didn’t know was how Donna Summer risked it all to break through barriers, becoming the icon of an era and the inspiration for every music diva who followed.
Frankie Kujawa: What can audiences expect from Summer: The Donna Summer Musical?
Robert Ayala: Audiences can expect a celebration! [They] can expect some of the most amazing music that has ever been created. I mean, c’mon, it’s Donna Summer! Audiences can expect to get up on their feet! They can expect to dance, to laugh, to cry and to sing along. We’ve had so many amazing experiences with our past audiences – young and old – who have just enjoyed Donna Summer’s music. So, expect everything is what I would say when you come to see Donna Summer.
Frankie Kujawa: Could you describe, for our readers, your roles throughout the performance?
Robert Ayala: So, I play a couple of people. First off, I play Giorgio Moroder. He was most known for creating the masterpiece songs “I Feel Love,” “Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls.” He’s in the show a lot as part of [Summer’s] disco era. I also play David Geffen, who was part of the team which ended up suing her manager Neil Bogart and who actually won that case. I’m also a bunch of different ensemble people. So, I am all over that stage (laughs). You’ll see me everywhere!
Frankie Kujawa: Why do you think Donna Summer’s music has such an enduring legacy?
Robert Ayala: Well, as someone who is 27 years-old and who was never around for the legacy that was Donna Summer - especially in her prime, I think what draws me into Donna Summer’s music so much is it makes you want to move. I love to move and love to dance. Every time I hear a Donna Summer song, I mean, c’mon it’s a classic! You can’t go anywhere without hearing a Donna Summer song. You know, you’re in the supermarket and you’ll hear “Last Dance.” Or you’re out to eat somewhere, and you’ll hear “Hot Stuff.” Her music has influenced so many artists since her time. And you can’t listen to something without thinking, ‘Oh, this had to have been influenced in some way by Donna Summer.’ Especially the artists you hear now on the radio. It’s because of her legacy, because of what she left behind. She left behind so much musically.
Frankie Kujawa: Is there a favorite number that you enjoy performing in the musical?
Robert Ayala: I love doing “Hot Stuff” because it’s one of my favorite numbers. It’s very high energy! It’s very true to the disco legacy. We actually have a bit of a “Soul Train” line at one point which is fun. It’s one of the most fun numbers and it’s near the end, so it’s definitely worth waiting for!
Frankie Kujawa: As a Miami, Florida-native, do you enjoy touring around the country with the musical?
Robert Ayala: Being a Miami-native, I’m used to the much warmer temperatures. I’m used to 80 degrees and 90 degrees - even the humidity. So, going from 80-90 degrees to about -14 degrees, which was one of the last stops we were in – Minnesota – it’s a bit jarring (laughs). I’ve learned that I’m severely unprepared for [the weather] clothes-wise. But I think it’s been really refreshing to be in different areas and different places. To see how other people live is very cool. Moreso, having my first experiences with a lot of things. I experienced snow for the first time, which is crazy to say because a lot of people were like, ‘You’ve never experienced snow?!’ Where I’m from snow is like a tale, and no one really knows about it. So being able to experience that for the first time was amazing! Touring around to different places is just so cool. I can’t even put in any other words to describe it. It’s just so cool to wake up and say, ‘Oh, where am I now?’ Or, being able to say, ‘Oh, I’ve been there, and this is what it’s like.’ I like [touring] a lot!
Frankie Kujawa: What do you hope most people walk away with after seeing this performance?
Robert Ayala: I’m hoping audiences walk away with the fondest memories of Donna Summer. You know [audiences] go through a lot of different things from within her life. We experience things like where she came from and where she went. I hope [audiences] walk away with the celebration of her legacy. Essentially, what Donna Summer brought to the world. She wasn’t just a celebrity within our country. She was a celebrity everywhere around the world, too. I want [audiences] to have this understanding of who she was and who she’s continuing to be long after she’s gone.
For tickets, please visit: www.ticketmaster.com/summer-the-donna-summer-musical-touring-tickets/artist/2599048