Review Roundup: A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN opens tonight, October 10 at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway.
Like a comet that burns far too brightly to last, Janis Joplin (Mary Bridget Davies) exploded onto the music scene in 1967 and, almost overnight, became the Queen of Rock 'n' Roll. The unmistakable voice filled with raw emotion and tinged with Southern Comfort made her a must-see headliner from Monterey to Woodstock.
A Night With Janis Joplin is a musical journey celebrating Janis and her biggest musical influences - trailblazers like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone and Bessie Smith, who inspired one of Rock 'n' Roll's greatest legends.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: The one hundred and ten year history of Broadway's Lyceum Theatre has seen nine musicals, a couple of plays with music and a few concert evenings grace its stage. But I doubt if the walls of the classic Beaux-Arts showplace have ever felt any vibrations like the powerful full-throated wails of soulful orgasmic psychodelia emoted from Mary Bridget Davies in the title role of A Night With Janis Joplin...Writer/director Randy Johnson's concert-style musical is not to be lumped in the same category with that trio of Beatles imitation concerts that have played Times Square or other such shows that rely solely on mimicry. The ambition is a little higher here, and while A Night With Janis Joplin has its flaws as drama, as a raucous, hyper-energized tribute to one of American music's great icons, it's a joyful explosion.
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Ms. Davies portrays both sides of Janis, I should add. And while she bears a notable physical resemblance to Joplin, and her speaking voice has the same whisper of a twang and down-home earthiness, I'm a little suspicious of that second character. If the real Joplin had the kind of sensible perspective on her life and career that she exhibits in this show - happily reminiscing about her youthful love of painting, or giving a learned docent tour of blues history - she would probably not have died of an overdose of heroin and alcohol at 27...There remains a strange disjunction between the soul-baring singer and the woman calmly telling us that "the blues is just a good woman feelin' bad," or "the blues are a way out of where you are, and they can drag you to where you're going," or "it's the want of something that gives you the blues, man." The Janis we meet in "A Night With Janis Joplin" spends so much time talking about the blues, you begin to wonder when she had time to truly suffer them.
Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: Legendary blues and soul singer Janis Joplin was an astounding force of nature onstage and off. A new concert musical on Broadway provides a rockin' good time while imaginatively evoking her impassioned, thrilling talent...Soulful and genuine, Davies gives a lively, energetic performance. She captures much of the exuberance and uniquely raspy wailing that made Joplin a musical legend, though she lacks Joplin's raw onstage sexuality and brash, raunchy persona...With dynamic use of lighting, projections, sound design and the choreography of Patricia Wilcox, Johnson creates a high-caliber spectacle around the compelling story of a uniquely talented singer-songwriter who embodied her generation's passionate attitudes.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Mary Bridget Davies screeches up a storm as Janis Joplin. When she throws her formidable lungpower and raspy emotional rawness into "Piece of My Heart," you could swear the tragic supernova known to her friends as "Pearl" had been reborn. But if you're after a contextualized bio-musical to provide insight into rock's first undisputed queen, writer-director Randy Johnson's sanitized concert tribute, A Night With Janis Joplin, is not the place to look.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: As a musical biography, "A Night With Janis Joplin" is pretty much a bust. The book by Randy Johnson, who also helmed, skims lightly over the singer's Texas childhood and her tenure with Big Brother and the Holding Company, with nary a word about her personal life or the booze and drugs that cut it short. But as a concert in which those great ladies of song who were Joplin's musical inspiration join her on stage, the show is something else - a celebration of the blues and those beautiful bruises they leave on the singer's soul.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Well, so much for hopes about "A Night With Janis Joplin." Goodbye to a glimmer of faith that, just maybe, Broadway might restrain itself from flattening this formative rock outlaw into another cheese-ball tribute like the ones that mass-market the singularity of Elvis and The Beatles...Writer-director Randy Johnson and the siblings Joplin left behind in Port Arthur, Texas, have scrubbed her up and domesticated her into just another ordinary '60s chick who idolized black women blues singers, loved literature, sang loud and died fast...Mary Bridget Davies has the lungs, the notes and the screaming moan in the back of the throat to suggest the real thing in "Cry Baby," "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Ball and Chain." But the actress, who also toured in a different Janis revue, is too externalized (and badly costumed) to touch the layers of vulnerability, much less the brazen sexuality that helped galvanize the adventures of a generation.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: What the blues are, exactly, is a preoccupying concern in this musical tribute, which opened Thursday at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre. They can be, Joplin tells us at different points, "a good woman feelin' bad," or "the want of something," or occasionally "the devil himself." Speaking these lines, Mary Bridget Davies, who plays the late '60s rock goddess, is utterly credible as a hippie icon, from her alternately blissed-out and earnest vibe to her groovy period costumes (the latter provided by designer Amy Clark). Yet under the direction of Randy Johnson, who also wrote the book, Night offers a distinctly post-American Idol version of the blues. Davies is accompanied on stage by a band and four other spectacularly gifted female vocalists, who alternate as the backing "Joplinaires" and various artists whose work inspired Joplin's; and the fireworks they provide can border perilously on crowd-pleasing caricature.