Local fans of musical theater in for a rare treat. A Night with Janis Joplin–the full Tony Award-nominated Broadway production–launches a 14-city tour of California with an opening night at the Fox Theater Visalia next month.
“It’s mind-blowing,” said David Shaw, president of Turnaround Productions, which is presenting the tour.
The single-night production is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 9. Tickets are available at turnaroundartists.org or at the box office.
Roots of Rock
The show, while focused on the music of iconic ‘60s rock star Janis Joplin, explores the foundations of her career and the early black female blues singers that served as her inspiration.
“She was little white girl out of Port Arthur, Texas,” said Shaw. “Then she moved to Austin and came under the influence of the blues. She was infatuated with black soul singers.”
The show stars actress and singer Mary Bridget Davies as Joplin. Davies also played the role during the production’s Broadway run, earning her a Tony nomination for best actress.
“That’s all of Broadway, including Audra McDonald and all those superstars,” said Shaw.
Davies also appeared as Joplin in Love, Janis, and toured in Europe with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Joplin’s original band.
School of Rock
Davies isn’t alone on the stage. She is joined by an ensemble of singers who bring to life the women who influenced the young Joplin as she grew up in Texas.
Portrayed on stage are such notables voices of the blues as Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Bessie Smith and Etta James, along with their classic songs in the original and as sung by Joplin.
“For me it’s also educational,” said Shaw. “You see what a genius thing she did with these songs.”
While Joplin would eventually transform herself into the queen of the Haight Street scene, she began her life as a small-town girl from the American South.
The show examines the music that cued that radical change.
“The show is based on Janis Joplin’s life, but it’s mostly about her musical influences,” Shaw said. “She was basically a ‘library’ girl.”
The show will also make stops in Fresno–at 7:30pm Thursday, October 25 at the Saroyan Theater–and in Bakersfield–also at 7:30pm at the Fox Theater Bakersfield.
And, it will visit Joplin’s old stomping grounds on Tuesday, October 23 at the historic Warfield Theater in San Francisco. The rock-n-roll landmark hosted some of the greatest performers of the 1960s, including Santana, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and, of course, Joplin.