Every night, just as Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is ending, the party’s just beginning. That’s how it feels, anyway, when the rousing curtain call — a buoyant, full-cast rendition of Donna Summer’s iconic tune “Last Dance” — gets the whole audience up on its feet and moving. As a truckload of supersize glitter rains down, no one in the room wants the celebration to end. And it doesn’t have to. Everyone’s invited to the afterparty right next door at Bond 45, the restaurant and Broadway hangout that neighbors the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where Summer is playing.
After every performance, Summer audiences are greeted at Bond with a glass of prosecco. They’re offered a themed late-night happy hour menu that includes cocktails such as the pineapple-infused tequila concoction Hot Stuff, and the Bad Girls, a riff on gin and tonic. There are cheap eats too, from Margherita pizzetta to calamari to chicken Parm. There’s also dancing. Lots and lots of dancing.
“It’s a party atmosphere at the theatre, and it’s a party atmosphere over here too,” says Tad Wilson, the Broadway liaison at Bond 45 (also a Broadway actor himself, currently appearing across Times Square in Gettin’ the Band Back Together). After any given performance of Summer, you might find yourself disco-ing the night away alongside members of the production’s cast, who also head over once they’re out of costume and makeup.
“I’m never tired after the show because that music is so invigorating,” says Storm Lever, who plays Summer in the early stages of her life and career. “I’m also up on the dance floor dancing!”
The idea for the afterparty was inspired by a similar shindig at the La Jolla Playhouse, where Summer played prior to its Broadway run. There, a disco floor set up outside the theatre let audience members, still energized from all the Donna Summer hits they heard throughout the show, continue the celebration.
Broadway audiences can do that same at Bond 45, where it’s not just Summer cast members they’ll see. The restaurant, recently relocated from its original home on 45th Street, is a regular haunt for everyone on Broadway, from power-lunching producers to actors winding down after a show. It’s such a staple of the Broadway community that scenes were filmed there for Smash, NBC’s fan-favorite series about the theater industry.
Wilson points to Thursday nights as particularly good ones for spotting faces who fans have seen onstage. “Thursday just naturally has been a night where Broadway gets together,” he says. “We want to keep that momentum going.”
For the performers in Summer, the afterparty gives them a chance to meet the people they’ve just spent the last hour and half with in the theatre, and share memories they have of Summer and the disco era.
“I’ve heard so many fun stories about people at the disco,” Lever says. And some stories that are touching: One of her most memorable exchanges occurred with a man whose brother was closeted and who was an avid Donna Summer fan before he died of complications due to AIDS. The musical’s list of hits reminded the man fondly of the brother he loved, and of the concerts that were the only places where he saw his sibling get to be his authentic self.
Lever also singles out a notable conversation she had with two women in their eighties, one who used a cane and one who used a walker. They may have looked grandmotherly, but they had stories to tell. “One of them said, ‘Oh, Doris, do you remember all the cocaine we did?’” Lever recalls with a laugh. “I was shook! They lived to tell the tale, and you never know what people experienced at the disco and what they’re willing to share.”