If your heart jumps when you hear songs like “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Piece of My Heart,” and if you can recognize the voice of the great Janis Joplin by the first note, then the musical now performing at the Pasadena Playhouse is for you.
A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN showcases the singer’s best-known songs in the voice of Mary Bridget Davies, who does an amazing job at delivering the energy and raw emotion that Joplin put into her performances. Bridget Davies’ voice is outstanding, reaching every note and howl just as Joplin did, plus she has the icon’s mannerisms down to the last tee. The show also counts with the impressive voices of Sharon Catherine Brown, Yvette Cason, Sylvia MacCalla, and Jenelle Lynn Randall, who play the women who influenced Joplin’s music and delivery – Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, Odetta, and Etta James. They deliver fantastic blues numbers.
More than a musical, this show feels like a concert. Twenty four songs are performed in two acts (there’s a 15 minute intermission). The hard part is managing to stay prim and proper in the theater’s gorgeous chairs as the music of the outstanding band on stage raises your skin into goose bumps. Often, however, the cast encourages you to be interactive – they invite you to clap, stand, dance, and sing along. Little talk is done between songs, with Mary Bridget Davis mostly relating interesting biographical tidbits about Joplin’s life. Adorable pictures of the iconic singer as a small child, with her siblings and parents, are projected on the stage.
A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN was written and directed by Randy Johnson, produced by Michael Cohl, Todd Gershwin and Daniel Chilewich, in association with The Estate of Janis Joplin and Jeffrey Jampol for JAM, Inc.
This is a popular show at the Playhouse because it is thoroughly entertaining and totally worth its ticket price. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets, priced from $55.00 to $150.00, are available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org; or by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529; or visiting the box office.
The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.
Photo: Mary Bridget Davies & Company, by Joan Marcus. Used with permission