BWW Review: NORTH CAROLINA THEATRE'S A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN Rocks the Fletcher Opera Theater

BWW Review: NORTH CAROLINA THEATRE'S A NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN Rocks the Fletcher Opera Theater

Janis Joplin is alive and well and rocking the house at The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts' Fletcher Opera Theater.

Directed by Randy Johnson, the creator, writer, and director of the 2014 Tony Award nominated production, North Carolina Theatre's A NIGHT WITH Janis Joplin pays homage to the rock icon and resurrects the souls of the singers who inspired her.

On opening night, Francesca Ferrari (who alternates playing the lead role with Paige McNamara) stepped into Joplin's shoes, channeling her energy, spirit, and big voice sans any cartoonish impersonation or mimicry that would've diminished the richness of the production. Ferrari's rendition of Me and Bobby McGee literally stopped the show with a standing ovation midway through Act II. And Ferrari's duet of Little Girl Blue with Nattalyee Randall's Nina Simone, appeared even more poignant with Joplin's younger sister Laura sitting in the audience.

The synergy between Ferrari and the band, The Joplinaires, feels like they've been rocking for years, not just the few short weeks they've been in rehearsal.

Jennifer Leigh Warren as the Blues Singer brings her wealth of experience to North Carolina Theatre's production having performed the role in both the first and second tour. She, like Ferrari, stopped the show with a standing ovation after her performance of Today I Sing the Blues.

Joining Warren as Joplin's muses are Tawny Dolley as Etta James and Aurianna Angelique as Bessie Smith and Odetta. Angelique's subtle, sultry and soulful portrayal of Smith embodies the essence of the Empress of the Blues, particularly during the number Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out.

Brian Prather's set easily transitions from feeling like an intimate coffeehouse to that of a large concert hall, with the help of Ryan O'Gara's effective lighting design.

North Carolina Theatre's production of A NIGHT WITH Janis Joplin feels more like a rock concert than a jukebox musical, which is a testament to Randy Johnson's writing, staging, and casting. And judging by the audience's reaction opening night who were singing, dancing, and clapping along with Janis and her soul sisters, this run will be a box office success.

A NIGHT WITH Janis Joplin runs through May 20th. As a bonus, ticket holders can experience The Fashion and Art of the Blues: Janis Joplin, Her Style, and Her Heroes exhibit, which includes a display of authentic items from the Janis Joplin estate. In addition, there will be a talk-back panel discussion, The Musical Muses of Janis Joplin, after the May 6th matinee performance that is free and open to the public. The panel discussion will begin at 4:30 pm at The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Raleigh. For more information visit:

www.nctheatre.com

Photo Credit: Paige McNamara as Janis Joplin in A NIGHT WITH Janis Joplin. Photo by Curtis Brown.

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