A Midsummer Night's Disco Comes To Miami

Jul 13, 2012

The disco craze that took the world by storm nearly 40 years ago was born in New York City, right?

Maybe not.

A theatrical experience celebrating 1970's disco comes to the Adrienne Arsht Center tonight.  And while it’s hundreds of miles away from the streets John Travolta struts down in “Saturday Night Fever,” it turns out Miami played a major role in the disco craze.

“I think that those people who are from cultures where social dance is an aspect of their cultural life, their everyday life, it was something that they could relate to,” says 29-year-old Rosie Herrera, choreographer of “The Donkey Show.”

Herrera, who lives in Miami, says many Cubans who came to the United States in the '60s and '70s readily embraced the disco culture as something “that felt close enough to home and different enough to be completely American."

"The Donkey Show" is a re-imagining of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  To accommodate what the producers call an “immersive theater experience,” the scenic designers transformed the Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House into a large-scale recreation of New York City’s famed Studio 54.

For the last few weeks of the show’s run, its guest host will be Harry Casey, better known as "K.C." of K.C and the Sunshine Band, a disco-era headliner. 

Casey, who was raised in Hialeah and still lives in Miami, says the hit songs he wrote in the ‘70s were strongly influenced by the sounds he heard growing up here.

"Sometimes, there were records that were hits in Miami that weren't hits in other parts of the country," says Casey.  "I mean, I grew up with the Motown sound.  And you know, when I did 'Keep It Coming' Love,’ which is kind of a Latin sounding song, it was ‘Da-da-da-DA.  Da-da-da-DA.’  Latin music is very danceable and very rhythmic.  So it plays a very important role in what dance music is.”

The Miami production of “The Donkey Show” boasts the largest cast in its 13-year history, with twenty singers, dancers, rollerskaters and trapeze artists -- all of them local talent. 

The Donkey Show," runs at the Arsht Center through August 12th -- plenty of time for South Florida theater lovers to pull the glittering gowns, platform shoes and three-piece polyester suits out of the moth balls.