There’s no hotter ticket on Broadway or off than for the staging of music. Musicals like Book of Mormon, Lion King, Frozen, and Hamilton play to packed houses somewhere every night. At one time earlier this year, it was even possible to attend Broadway shows inspired by Jimmy Buffett — Escape to Margaritaville — then the next night see Springsteen on Broadway. Bruce is currently in residence, now in his 13th month playing five shows a week.
Other shows pay tribute to a musical icon and showcase talented musicians in a lead role telling an artist’s life story. Called “jukebox musicals,” often the musician/actor is difficult to distinguish from the original artist. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is proving to be one of the smash-hit jukebox musicals of all time, currently in its fifth year on Broadway.
A Night with Janis, making a one-night stop at the Fox Theatre in Visalia on Tuesday, Oct. 9, combines several of the classic elements of the best musicals. After numerous previews, the show opened at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway five years ago, and 141 high-energy performances later it closed.
A Night with Janis has played one 34-city U.S. and Canada tour and several extended runs since Broadway, but the Visalia show will officially launch taking the production on the road for one-night stands, like a concert tour, playing many of the same venues that Janis would have played herself had not her brief career ended tragically in 1970. Janis Joplin, who died at age 27 from a heroin overdose, was a cultural enigma and a powerhouse of a performer who threw all of her heart and soul into every performance.
In 1967, after an incredible performance at the Monterey Pop Festival that was captured and released in a film the next year, Janis soared to the top of the charts with a succession of hits and gold albums. Four of her vinyl classic albums still sell briskly today; Pearl (her nickname) released posthumously in 1971 is the best seller and has become a cult classic.
Janis, in three short years, rapidly ascended to the “Queen of Psychedelic Rock.” She was a gifted song stylist who, as she described, even “made up a few songs.”
There has never been another musician who delivered blues-inspired rock with more energy with her unique brand of hip, blue-eyed soul. That is, perhaps, until Mary Bridget Davies auditioned to play Janis for the original Broadway run in 2013.
A Broadway critic in the New York Post praised the music but said the script sanitized the life of Janis Joplin. But that critic described rising star Mary Bridget Davies as “power-piped.”
After receiving a Tony award nomination for her portrayal of Janis, Davies is back on tour with the show and her voice captures the energy and indomitable style of Janis. The soul and folk idols who influenced Janis growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, — Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone, and Bessie Smith — will join Janis onstage for one raucous evening featuring the music of Janis Joplin and her idols like no other production ever staged.
The show’s producers know that besides the powerful performances of Davies and all the singers, the sound must be spot on. At each venue, and there will be 14 more October dates in California, the sound system has to be set up and meticulously sound checked, then carefully transported to the next performance.
Through the on-stage magic of Mary Bridget Davies, the legacy of Janis Joplin lives on along with the creative legacy of the hippies of the 1960s.
Only a few select seats remain. Contact the Visalia Fox Theatre box office by calling 625-1369 or purchase tickets online at anightwithjanisjoplin.com.