Theater Review - A Night With Janis Joplin (NY)

Sometimes you look at a title on an invitation and say to yourself, “I wish I didn't have to go to this one!” That's the way I felt about the musical, “A Night with Janis Joplin.”How wrong I turned out to be! This story of the white rock and blues star, albeit sanitized, is fresh and original.  It is an electric time in the theater you will not soon forget.

 

Mary Bridget Davies, an amazing look alike, recreates Joplin, the wild hair, the screech, the songs and the sweetness that underscored her performances.  What we learn here is that Janis only really made a name for herself for three years. She was 27 when she died from a drug and alcohol overdose on October 4, 1970.  Although she takes a few swigs from a bottle of Southern Comfort, her problems are not highlighted in this show. Her music and the women singers who influenced her are the driving forces of”A Night with Janis Joplin.”

 

It is an American story of the 60s.  Janis was born in a small town, Port Arthur, Texas. She danced to her own drummer was not popular in school and when she found her unique voice she fled from her family: mom and dad and much younger sister and brother-- to San Francisco. There she joined other like- minded groups in Haight Ashbury. This singer-songwriter sang with Big Brother & The Holding Company and the Kozmic Blues Band, and identified with The Grateful Dead.

 

On a colorful set, lit with dazzle-both designed by Justin Townsend, Joplin, costumed in flowing tops, decorated Levi's and fringed boots, all by Amy Clark, accompanied by a fab eight-piece orchestra, delivers a feast of numbers that made her beloved. “Tell Mama,”  “Summertime,” “Piece of My Heart,” and “Turtle Blues” are just some of so many songs; it is hard to list them all.  She is joined by The Joplinaires, featured as Chantel, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Odetta, Etta James, and Aretha Franklin.

Taprena Michelle Augustine, De'Adre Aziza, Allison Blackwell, and Nikki Kimbrough are stupendous singers and musicians,  Allison Blackwell's Aretha intoning  “Spirit in the Dark” is fantastic, as is her costume and the way it is used. I do hope Aretha will come and see it!   

 

“A Night with Janis Joplin” is pure fascinating enjoyment. She was one of a kind.

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