TIO NYC: “A Night with Janis Joplin”

TIO NYC: “A Night with Janis Joplin”

1.165605Little known fact: she painted and though no Picasso, she was good.

She was a fashionista and though no Anna Wintour, she became a trend setter. In 1966, when she joined the Haight-based psychedelic-rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, her adoption of a wildly original sartorial style – granny glasses, frizzed-out hair and extravagant attire that winked, hippie-style, at the burlesque era – further spiked her burgeoning reputation.

That and her signature sound – high, husky, earthy, explosive, boozy, bluesy, ballsy – which remains to this day among the most distinctive and galvanizing in pop history. But the lady did not merely possess a great instrument: she threw herself body and soul into every syllable, testifying from the core of her being.

Born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1943, Janis Joplin fell under the sway of Leadbelly, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton in her teens. The authenticity of these voices strongly influenced her decision to become a professional singer.

The iconic chanteuse went on to claim the blues, soul, gospel, country and rock with unquestionable authority and verve, fearlessly inhabiting psychedelic guitar jams, back-porch roots and everything in between. Her volcanic performances left audiences stunned and speechless, while her sexual magnetism, world-wise demeanor, and flamboyant style shattered every stereotype about female artists. Joplin was the first and the quintessential “rock mama,” dubbed by Aretha Franklin “The Queen of Rock ‘n Roll.”

And judging from the crowd reaction, her subjects, even posthumously, continue to worship at her feet. (The audience whooped and hollered with joy after almost every song – or sang along at this love-in.)

So come on. Come on! Come on! Let the incomparable Mary Bridget Davies, Joplin’s doppelgänger, take a little piece of your heart, which you will willingly give when you spend “A Night With Janis Joplin,” at the Lyceum Theatre. Guaranteed this spit-clean, razzle-dazzle production, less Broadway more Fillmore East, will rock your world. The electrifying show, written and directed by Randy Johnson, has a live onstage band, virtuosic back up singers (some of whom channel the voices of Joplin’s influences) and features classics such as “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Ball and Chain” and “Summertime.”

“A Night with Janis Joplin” comes to the Big Apple following sold out performances at the Portland Center Stage in Oregon; the Cleveland Play House; Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.; the Pasadena Playhouse in California; and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Davies comes to New York via Cleveland, where the 35-year-old actress and blues singer was raised. Joplin, one of the performer’s heroes, is a role Davies was clearly destined to play. In fact, one of the diva’s very first breaks came in the late 1990s, when Big Brother and the Holding Company — Joplin’s early backup band — invited her onstage to sing “Me and Bobby McGee” in Cleveland. Davies went on to tour with the band and, in 2005, was cast as Joplin in “Love, Janis,” an earlier musical about her life. (Joplin died of a drug overdose at 27 in 1970.)

“A Night With Janis Joplin” officially opens in New York on October 12 (when the role of Joplin will be played at the Wednesday and Saturday matinees by Kacee Clanton).

For tickets, go here.





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