Oct 23, 2019

Broadway Buzz: SUMMER

By: Alicia Hansen


photo c/o Allison Hopkins Photography 

I have had the absolute pleasure of serving as Playhouse Square’s Community Engagement and Education’s blogger for the past four seasons, and guess what — I’m back for season number five! Join me as I to take you behind the scenes to interview a member of the featured show’s cast, crew or creative team for each of the KeyBank Broadway Series performances. The first show in the 2019-2020 season is Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.


Today on the blog, I’m sharing my Playhouse Square Behind the Curtain interview with John Gardiner, the actor who plays several roles in the production.


Tell us about yourself. How did you discover performing? How did it bring you to the theater, specifically Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

I started off playing in rock bands in high school before I ever got into theatre, so doing shows like Jersey Boys and Summer about musicians feels like home to me.

You play a few different roles in the production including Neil Bogart, the founder of Casablanca Records, who is associated with the rise of disco thanks to artists like Donna Summer and the Village People. What are some of the things you enjoy about playing this role?

Neil Bogart helped create Donna Summer’s image, shaped all of pop music, and was the ultimate promoter in the disco era. 

Donna Summer had many, many hits in the span of her career. What’s your favorite number in the production and why?

“Love to Love You” is my current favorite because the show weaves so much backstory about creating Donna’s sound into this song.  However, she had so many hits, my favorite song changes every couple days.

With such a familiar face as Donna Summer as the focal point of the show, what about/in the show and her music most resonates with today’s audiences?

Donna Summer was the original Diva; we wouldn’t have female stars like Beyoncé without Donna Summer paving the way.  With the advent of the #metoo movement, I think the female empowerment theme of Summer couldn’t feel more relevant.

I understand your wife, Kyli Rae, is also in the ensemble of the show and your son is out on tour with you. As you tour around the country, what tips do you have for surviving the touring lifestyle with your family along for the ride?

We love being on the road with our little family.  The key is to stay in apartments and not hotels, go to as many museums and parks as you can, hire a live in nanny to tour with you, and find ways to make the travel days fun for our little guy.  I’m so proud of my wife, Kyli Rae, who not only dances and sings her face off, but also brilliantly portrays Giorgio Moroder, a famous German-Italian record man.  I make sure to massage her sore dancing feet whenever I can.

What makes Summer so special compared to other productions you’ve worked on over your career?

Our ensemble is comprised of 85% women, which is rare for a Broadway show.  As we tell the story of Donna Summer breaking glass ceilings and overcoming diversity, you can feel the special energy created by this cast of remarkably talented women.  It is an inspiring, unique experience to be in the presence of empowered women telling a story of female empowerment every night.

Follow John on Instagram @gardinernyc

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DON’T MISS IT: Summer: The Donna Summer Musical runs through October 27th in the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square. Click here for more information.

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