Do you believe in reincarnation? I don’t. Well, I didn’t until Saturday night when I saw what could only be explained as Janis Joplin reincarnated. The Pasadena Playhouse is currently hosting One Night with Janice Joplin, a two-hour stage production of music, storytelling and visuals that hold your attention throughout the entire performance. The crowd was not your usual one for an evening at the theatre, with attire ranging from suits and evening gowns to tie dye, beads and peace sign medallions, and ages ranging from 10 to 80 years old it was evident that this evening was going to be quite a unique experience. Although too young to have actually seen Joplin perform live, the energy and emotion she captured on “vinyl” could literally match or surpass “live” performances of most peers, male and female alike. She was the female face, body, mind and spirit of rock n’ roll!
The undisputed Queen of Rock n’ Roll is portrayed by multi-talented, award winning, actress/singer/songwriter Mary Bridget Davies, who turns in a performance of electrifying magnitude. The production focuses on Joplin, telling quaint stories of her childhood, siblings, parents and upbringing in the small town of Port Arthur, Texas. She masterfully weaves a gripping tale of her first exposure to music and of the female blues singers that inspired, influenced and shaped her as an artist, women such as Bessie Smith, Etta James, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin, all of whom are represented by a cast of incredibly talented vocalists. She recalls her first venture to California in the early 60s, her time with Big Brother & the Holding Company and how the energy of a live “electric” band forever changed her.
But undoubtedly, it’s when Davies grabs the microphone and cues up the band that the rock n’ roll beast is unleashed and this show really comes to life! Backed by an eight-piece, onstage band, complete with horns and keyboards, Davies transports the entire audience back forty plus years. Visually, she captures the look, the mannerisms and feel-good attitude of the singer, but aurally, she embodies the very essence of Janice Joplin. Ripping through such classics as Ball and Chain, Summertime, Me and Bobby McGee and Piece of My Heart she commands the capacity crowd with the authority of a true musical legend. With standing ovations throughout the production and dancing in the aisles, her musical performance had more of a live concert feel to it than a theatrical stage production. Closing out the show with the a cappella classic, Mercedes Benz, Davies brought the house down one final time. Due to overwhelming demand, One Night with Janice Joplin has been extended through April 21, 2013 at the Pasadena Playhouse and truly is a “must see” for any fan of rock n’ roll history.
Here’s a little information for some of our younger readers, Janis Joplin was crowned the Queen of Rock n’ Roll, for her uncompromising musical style and attitude. From the mid-60s to this day, she is unrivaled by any other female rocker. She paved the way for many female artists to follow and has been sighted as an influence by artists such as, The Pretenders, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrisette and Bonnie Raitt to name a few. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and posthumously given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. As both a solo artist and part of Big Brother & the Holding company she’s sold in excess of 7 million records. Her final album, Pearl was released posthumously in 1971 and in 2003 was ranked #122 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
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