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Director Responds to Spotlight on Disco From Deaths of Summer and Gibb

Local community theater director Pedro Amaral is staging this summer's production of "Xanadu" at Riverview High School. Looking to fill one more role, he discusses the spotlight on disco resulting from the recent deaths of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb.

 

As he prepares to fill the last remaining role for his roller-disco production of 'Xanadu," it is not lost on Pedro Amaral, director for the Frenzie Performance Factory show, that the deaths this week of music legends Donna Summer and Robin Gibb tore a hole in the soul of disco.

"Obviously, for someone my age, I didn't grow up with them," Amaral said. "But my mom's been a big fan, my dad's been a big fan and my grandfather was a big fan, so I was always familiar with the music. The Bee Gees were a staple in my house. I remember being two years old and listening to the Bee Gees. My dad had every album."

Defined by strong, repetitive bass rhythms, the music of disco was hugely popular during the  mid- to late-70's, and at the forefront of the dance-music genre were Summer and Gibb, as a member of the Bee Gees, best known for their falsetto-laced hits.

Summer, 63, died May 17 from lung cancer; her family claimed she was a non-smoker. Gibb, 62, died three days later, also after a battle with cancer.

Referred to as the "Queen of Disco," Summer's top disco hits included "Love To Love You Baby" in 1976 and "Bad Girls" in 1979. According to a tribute posted by The Hollywood Reporter, "Summer won five Grammys covering four genres — R&B, rock, inspirational and dance — and racked up 14 Top 10 singles from 1975-89, including four No. 1s in 16 months." Quincy Jones said her voice "was the heartbeat and the soundtrack of a decade."

Gibb, a British singer and songwriter, co-founded the Bee Gees with his twin brother, Maurice, and older brother, Barry. Their brother, Andy, also was a popular singer. According to a tribute posted by MTV.com, the Bee Gees soundtrack to the hit movie "Saturday Night Fever" held the record for the best-selling album of all time until the release of Michael Jackson's Thriller. "With such smashes as "Night Fever," "How Deep Is Your Love," "You Should Be Dancing," "Stayin' Alive" and "More Than a Woman," the soundtrack won the Grammy for Album of the Year and sold more than 15 million copies in the United States alone," according to the MTV.com report.

"They were so close in age and died within a day of each other, it's very strange," Amaral said. "It's almost like it's the end of an era. especially when you have a personal connection to the music."

As for "Xandau," featuring music by the Electric Light Orchetra and Olivia Newton john popular in the late '70s and early '80s, its stagings are scheduled for August in the Riverview High School auditorium.

While the show does not feature the music of Summer or Gibb, it nevertheless will bring disco back to the forefront.

"Even if just for a little while, that music will come back and the memories will come back and just for a little while we can relive those memories of when disco was king."

Admittedly so, "Xanadu" the movie "is one of the worst movies ever made," Amaral said. "Critics and moviegoers consider it the worst movie of all time. When they did it on Broadway, they decided to parody the movie, because the soundtrack was a bit hit."

The production received the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Musical in 2008 and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical in the same year.

For his production, Amaral said he needs to fill the role of Sonny Malone, a talented artist who dreams of fame beyond his job. Auditions are May 21 at 7 p.m. at the Element Church on Causeway Boulevard, about 1 miles west of 78th Street and less than a quarter-mile east of U.S. Highway 41.

Email thefrenzie@gmail.com for more information.

The rest of the show has been cast but this one role remains.

"Sonny Malone is a young artist, in his early 20's, and he's a bit of a surfer dude. He's very frustrated with his art, he's not very inspired," Amaral said. "A muse comes down from Mount Olympus to inspire him and, of course, he can't find out she's a muse. So she comes down in roller skates and leg warmers to inspire him."

Malone has "been looking for inspiration all his life, for his big moment, and as soon as she comes down he realize the one piece of art that will become his legacy is a roller disco," Amaral added.

Show dates are August 2-4, 5-9 and 11. The show is co-directed by Corey Wade with musical direction by Frenzie co-founder Michael Mercer.

The Frenzie Performance Factory, previously known as The Frenzie Life-Theatre, is currently seeking status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

 

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