GlossyCover Spotlight: Meet Ariana DeBose, Broadway Star of “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”
Ariana DeBose takes the stage as Donna Summer in the Broadway play Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Telling the story of the singer through the lens of her last concert tells the story of her life. We sat down with the actress to learn about the role and her career.
GlossyCover: You certainly have some great Broadway titles in your repertoire so far. Not to mention Hamilton! What was that experience like? Congrats on the Astaire Award for that role!
Ariana: Thank you! Hamilton was the experience of a lifetime! I loved dancing that show every night. We were so integral to the plot, and Andy Blankenbuhler’s choreography was a joy to interpret nightly. You can never get bored dancing for him. But also speaking to the show itself, I think it’s so rare that we see a show come to Broadway and become a cultural phenomenon. From Grammys to Tonys to political circles, Hamilton changed the way the world viewed musical theatre. To be a part of that was priceless.
GlossyCover: Next you star as Donna Summer. How are you preparing to get into character for that?
Ariana: It’s been a process over the last two years. I’ve read every interview, studied every video I can find for body language performance style, tidbits of humanity, etc. A huge piece of the puzzle was finding her voice, which required coaching. I’m so lucky to be able to work with Joan Lader. She’s the best in the business and has taught me so much about vocal health and stamina. I’m a much smarter vocalist as a result of her training.
I’ve also changed my body. Im a huge fan of Flywheel and FlyBarre! Two to three classes a week with them has helped turn me into a lean mean fighting machine. Ultimately, it all comes together with hair, make up and costumes. Our design team, Paul Tazwell (costumes) & Chuck Lapointe (hair)–who I also worked with on Hamilton–have been incredibly influential in how “Disco Donna” has come to life. We’ve been able to create a real partnership. I’m excited for audiences to see what we’ve been working on.
GlossyCover: When you were researching her life for the part, is there something you found out that we might not have known about her?
Ariana: Yes, actually! When I started my research process I didn’t know that she got her start in musical theatre world. At the age of 18, she was cast as Shelia in the Munich production of Hair. It was also another way into the character for me.
GlossyCover: I read that you play “Disco Donna”. I imagine that’s a fun role with some fun costumes?
Ariana: THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!! Paul and his team have out done themselves! Disco has never looked so good. I think it might be safe to say that nearly every trend from the late 70s through the 80s is represented in our show.
GlossyCover: What was the most challenging part of learning the role?
Ariana: Our story is non-linear, which can be challenging when trying to consistently access your emotional reserves. I constantly remind myself what the character has just done and been through, and launch from there. It’s also worth noting that along with myself, two other incredible women portray Donna at different parts of her life. Storm Lever and LaChanze portray “Duckling Donna” and “Diva Donna”, respectively. These women are a dream to work with, and it’s a fun challenge for us to find ways to connect the dots amongst the three versions of this woman as she puts the fragments of her life together over the course of the show.
GlossyCover: I know you’re a triple threat. Singing, dancing and acting. Is there one you have more of a passion for?
Ariana: I’ve always said that dancing is my first language, my first love. However, as I’ve matured, I’ve come to love them all equally. It can become maddening though; I never feel like I’m nailing all three areas at one time. There’s always something I can improve on.
GlossyCover: Did you always dream about being on Broadway?
Ariana: Actually, I dreamt about being a backup dancer for Madonna and Janet Jackson! I discovered Broadway at age eight, but didn’t get bit by the theatre bug until high school.
GlossyCover: Is there one dream role you have?
Ariana: I’m not sure my dream role has been written yet. There are roles I’d like to tackle: Roxie in Chicago, Marquee De Lafayette in Hamilton (LOL!), Ophelia. I’d love to do a piece on Joan of Arc or Eleanor Roosevelt. Obviously the latter would have to have some forward thinkers at the helm to cast me in a part like that, but hey! Donald Trump is president, so why not?
GlossyCover: Do have any philosophies on staying healthy and sane in the craziness of New York City?
Ariana: I believe in meditation. I believe in hobbies. Anything that you can do that is just for yourself is key. The grind and hustle of the city will get you if you don’t have something that is just for you whether it be yoga, painting, getting a facial, walks in the park or visiting a museum.
GlossyCover: Any beauty tips for the Glossy Girl?
Ariana: It sounds cliche, but the secret to keeping my clear skin is lots and lots of lemon water. I drink tons of water. And I’m a huge fan of ORIGINS skin care line. Ginseng is my jam.
If you are visiting New York City soon, be sure to catch Ariana DeBose as “Disco Donna” in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. It will be one entertaining Broadway show!
Feature photo: Kevin Berne