Zach Theater’s “A Night With Janis Joplin”

Read the story at the Austin Chronicle.

There’s something I’ve never said in all my years of reviewing theatre, and as my editor is my witness, I’ll never say it again. Here goes: All the criticisms I can offer of Zach Theatre’s A Night With Janis Joplin don’t matter. If the audience is moved to tears of joy and people are on their feet celebrating, then something special is happening, and maybe that’s okay.

At a recent preview performance, people in the audience sang along, clapped, danced, and cheered. They were pretty well on board from the beginning, but once Janis (Mary Bridget Davies) sang the first notes of “Piece of My Heart,” the deal was done. A glance around the house showed over a hundred faces being thrown back to what must have been some amazing memories with that song for a soundtrack. (Do we want to know? Possibly not.) Even my guest – someone not inclined to clap and sing along at a rock concert – was on her feet.

A lot of this is due to Davies’ turn as Janis. You can quibble with how much she looks like her or whether her physicality is spot-on, but for real, y’all: that voice. She nails it. How exactly she manages to nail it night after night without killing her instrument? No idea. In fact, she sounds more like Janis than Janis did live. Davies – who was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance of the role on Broadway – takes your every memory of Joplin’s recorded music and gives a live performance so good, it may never have existed in reality. (That’s according to YouTube, because I’m too young to know firsthand. Yeah, boomers.)

The show features not just Janis, of course. It also gives us the amazing music of some of the women who influenced her, Black singers who were geniuses in their own right. To some ears, these ladies ought to have the show to themselves. That’s no slight to Davies but a nod to how remarkable the other women are – both in life and as embodied by the performers who sing with Davies in this production. Starting with “Tell Mama,” when Etta James (Tawny Dolley) struts back and forth upstage, it’s a great reminder that Janis wouldn’t have been Janis without the jaw-dropping talent of many Black women singers. With any luck, the creators of A Night With Janis Joplin will give us A Night With Aretha Franklin soon.

As a play, A Night is distinctly less than. The dialogue is thin, the plot nonexistent. Janis recites details from her life like an eighth-grade book report. The depression and addiction that led to her early death are all but unaddressed except with a few swigs from an onstage bottle.

But maybe it’s not really a play. Maybe it’s a glorified Janis impersonation, without apologies.

And you know what? That’s okay. It really is.

‘A Night With Janis Joplin’ wins Ovation Award

Read the story at the LA Times:

A Night With Janis Joplin won the award for Best Presented Production at the La Mirada Theater.

As the 2020 Ovation Awards celebrated its 30th annual ceremony, it handed top honors to Pasadena Playhouse’s “Ragtime” for best production and direction of a musical and to Fountain Theatre’s production of “Cost of Living” as best play in an intimate theater.

The festivities, held Monday night by the nonprofit L.A. Stage Alliance, took place at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and were hosted by actor George Salazar. Thirty-six awards were given to 13 Southern California theater companies. Winners were selected by local producers, directors, actors and other theater professionals chosen through an application process.

Fountain Theatre emerged as the night’s biggest winner after receiving the award for best season for a calendar of productions including “Cost of Living,” “Daniel’s Husband” and “Hype Man: A Break Beat Play.”

Other companies honored included Geffen Playhouse, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, Skylight Theatre, Center Theatre Group and Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

Janis Joplin biographer explores the legend’s love of musical desegregation

New York Times bestselling author Holly George-Warren had an intimate discussion with moderator Scott Goldman at the Grammy Museum on Monday, discussing her new book “Janis: Her Life and Music,” which was followed by a special performance by the singer Pearl. The book was released in October, preceding likely interest in a film adaptation of the Broadway musical “A Night with Janis Joplin” that will open in theaters nationwide on Nov. 5.

During the discussion, George-Warren said that she became interested in Joplin while writing liner notes for a deluxe edition of the “Pearl” album, when she got to hear some tapes brought out from the Columbia Records vaults that contained Joplin working in the studio with music producer Paul Rothchild.

“What I heard on these tapes was this guy in awe of Joplin just coming up with idea after idea in the studio, much like a producer does with an artist. And this was 1970,” George-Warren said, noting that Joplin was never likely to actually go so far as to produce herself. “In those days, it was very rare a woman ever produced a record.”

Hearing those tapes made George-Warren want to know more.“There’s this whole side to [Joplin] that I don’t think we know,” George-Warren said. “I decided I wanted to find out how this young white girl in segregated Port Arthur, Texas, a very conservative oil town in the 1950s, went on this path [and] became a blues singer.”

Joplin was born to a loving and supportive family that encouraged her to be creative. “As this young teenager, she and her friend would literally go driving around to the radio stations late at night and ask the DJs if they’d want some coffee, ’cause she wanted to find out about records,” George-Warren said. “And Beaumont had some great black stations. Again, things were quite segregated, but they would find these left of the dial stations where it was black music, and that was what really turned her on.”

Listening to black music would lead Joplin to discover her favorite music inspirations, like Big Mama Thornton, the original singer of Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” and Otis Redding.

“[Redding] was such a huge impact on both her sound and performance style,” George-Warren said. “When she got to see him — I think three nights in a row at the Fillmore in San Francisco — she was, as Prince liked to say, ‘gob-smacked.’”

Joplin did not start pursuing music professionally until after age 18 when she dropped out of college and journeyed on her own to Austin, Texas. She met Powell St. John, who after hearing her sing, asked her to join his band, the Waller Creek Boys. They started performing around the local college campus before booking the Threadgill bar, where she would first meet music promoter Chet Helms.

“She just really learned how to win over audiences in Austin and that really put her on her path that would lead to San Francisco,” George-Warren said.

In 1963, Joplin had no support. She was far away from her family, struggling with a heroin addiction while making $5 playing shows that she booked herself. When the drugs reduced her weight to 88 pounds, she was forced to return home.

“When she came back in ’65 from San Francisco, she knew that she was very close to death,” George-Warren said. “She couldn’t stay away from the music. She started performing in Houston clubs, first in Beaumont.” That is when a longtime friend of hers from high school published a review of her performance in an Austin newspaper, opening the door for her to receive more bookings in Austin.

“When she had left, everything was acoustic, but at this point now the Beatles had come out; everybody was forming bands and playing electric guitars,” George-Warren said. “For her, it was like a lightning bolt going up her body. I mean, she totally transformed her performance style. She started moving around, dancing.”

In the midst of Joplin’s second coming, Helms reconnected with Joplin. By this time, he was managing Big Brother and the Holding Company. “He sent an emissary from San Francisco to come and collect Janis and take her back there and that was in June of 1966. So she goes back and joins Big Brother and the rest is history,” George-Warren said.

Joplin was a risk-taker onstage and off. She was polyamorous, having relationships with both men and women. For Joplin, no matter what, music always came first.

Buy the book here:

A Night With Janis Joplin coming to a theater near you!





NOVEMBER 5 – 11, 2019

Find a theater near you and buy tickets today!

CineLife Entertainment®, the event cinema division of Spotlight Cinema Networks and BroadwayHD® announce the theatrical release of the popular Broadway musical, A Night with Janis Joplin, in U.S. theaters beginning November 5th.

Janis Joplin exploded onto the music scene in 1967 and instantly became the Queen of Rock & Roll. The unmistakable voice, filled with raw emotion and tinged with southern comfort, made her a must-see headliner from Monterey to Woodstock over 50 years ago. 

A Night with Janis Joplin follows the icon’s rise to fame and pays tribute to some of her biggest musical influences — legends like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone and Bessie Smith.

The film was directed by Emmy® Award Winner David Horn and stars Mary Bridget Davies, Broadway’s original Janis, in her Tony Award®-nominated role. The stage production was written and directed by Randy Johnson, choreographed by Patricia Wilcox, and produced for the stage by La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and McCoy Rigby Entertainment in association with T&D Productions, LLC. The production was presented in further association with The Estate of Janis Joplin and Jeffrey Jampol of JAM, Inc. Since its premiere in 2011, A Night with Janis Joplin has received multiple nominations/awards and has been seen at sold out engagements nationwide. The show is currently on its third national tour.

CineLife Entertainment’s Executive Vice President, Bernadette McCabe said: “Janis Joplin was an iconic, soulful rock and blues singer and a huge influence on our culture. She lives on in this Broadway to cinema production as if she were standing right in front of you today.”

BroadwayHD’s co-founders and Tony Award® winners’ Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane comment: “We are absolutely thrilled to bring this production to life and share it on the big screen. It captures the electricity and life of the show.”

Janis’ siblings Laura and Michael took part in the production and found rare live recordings that influenced the musical:

“I am thrilled that A Night with Janis Joplin is coming to the big screen. The show brings a lift to my spirit. Dancing in the aisles is a must!” – Michael Joplin

“Let’s Rock Together!  The film’s closeup and wide-angle shots create intense, intimate moments, where we join the audience’s connection with Janis.”  – Laura Joplin

Mary Bridget Davies will also be releasing a new album in 2020! The first “double sided” single from the upcoming album “Stay With Me: The Reimagined Songs of Jerry Ragovoy” will be released on October 25th, 2019, which includes the never before released “The Right Of Way” and a Ragovoy classic: “Stay With Me”. The album consists of rare, reimagined arrangements and some never before released Jerry Ragovoy songs. Mr. Ragovoy was the legendary hit songwriter for such  legendary Joplin classics like “A Piece Of My Heart”, “Cry Baby”, and “Stay With Me”, prominently featured in the Broadway musical,  A Night With Janis Joplin. Mary Bridget Davies will be live in concert for the single release at Le Poisson Rouge on October 26 at 8:00pm. 

Tickets for the musical movie are on sale now. For theaters and showtimes visit:

A look at Janis Joplin’s powerhouse performance from 1970

Read the original article at Far Out Magazine.

Janis Joplin is undoubtedly a musical powerhouse. For many music fans though she remains a distant figurehead of music, one that is so rarely talked about and thrust upon the present day, unlike acts like The Doors or The Grateful Dead. However, if there was one sure fired way to understand why every muso worth their weight in musical notes loves Janis, it is to watch this incredible live performance of ‘Cry Baby’.

The track was originally sung by Garnett Mims and The Enchanters but only truly found notoriety when Joplin picked up the mic and added her own unique lungs to the track’s proceedings. Recorded by Joplin for her solo record Pearl Joplin would sadly pass away before the single was released in 1971, backed by the B-Side ‘Mercedes Benz’. It remains today one of the most powerful ballads you’re likely to hear.

“So what?” We hear you (stupidly) ask. Well, the difference between Janis Joplin and pretty much every other singer since was that above all else, Joplin saw herself as a vocal artist. She was not at the front of the stage for glory or gold, she was under that spotlight so she could use her vocal brush strokes to paint a raw, emotive and impassioned picture. There’s no better canvas for Joplin than a song like ‘Cry Baby’.

On the Road with Janis Joplin: Photographs by John Byrne Cooke

The Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe will present the upcoming autumn exhibition: On the Road with Janis Joplin: Photographs by her road manager, John Byrne Cooke, opening October 4 from 5-7 pm.  

John Byrne Cooke experienced the 1960s within the music of the counterculture. As a musician and rock road manager during this turbulent decade, Cooke was always taking photographs. His subjects span the transition from folk music to rock, including Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, to traditional musicians such as Doc Watson, Mississippi John Hurt and many more.

As a member of the Charles River Valley Boys bluegrass band in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his musical home was the legendary Club 47, one of the principal wellsprings of the folk music boom. When folk gave way to rock and roll, Cooke moved to San Francisco, home of the Haight-Ashbury and acid rock, to become the road manager for Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin.  He wasn’t just another photographer hanging around in rehearsals and backstage, or trying to shoot from the wings during a concert. He wasn’t an outsider in the company of musicians. Cooke was a musician himself. He belonged.

Cooke’s photographs reveal his unique perspective of these luminaries of folk and rock, shown both in performance and in private moments offstage, including a photograph of Joplin two days before Cooke found her dead from a fatal heroin overdose on October 4, 1970.  In recent years, Cooke’s photographs have appeared in books, magazines and television documentaries. His work offers a new archive of affectionate and revealing images from the fabled Sixties. Cooke died in September 2017.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival will screen rarely seen film shorts of Janis Joplin. While traveling as her road manager, Cooke filmed Joplin and her band members on Fuji Single-8 film. This film has color superior to Kodak Super-8 and is undimmed by the passage of 40 years. His footage provides a unique and intimate view of Joplin offstage as well as on.

Watch “A Night With Janis Joplin” Now On BroadwayHD

The Tony-Award nominated musical, A Night With Janis Joplin, is available to watch on-demand now on Broadway HD! After you watch the musical, you can dive right in and stream Janis: Little Girl Blue, the criticially-acclaimed documentary about the life and times of Janis Joplin. Feel the power, the passion, and the emotion of Janis’ music, sing along, and learn about the life of the queen of rock and roll.

“A Night With Janis Joplin” hits the road for a 31-city tour

The “wild and joyously raucous” musical celebrating the life and music of the inimitable Janis Joplin is back on the road. Launching September 13 in Boston, MA, A Night With Janis Joplin will circling the United States before landing at a 6-week residency in Austin, TX in early 2020.

The show explores Janis’ music, as well as that of her influences and those she influenced – Odetta, Bessie Smith, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Nina Simone. This outing again stars Tony-nominee Mary Bridget Davies in the role of Janis.

Visit the musical page here to find a date and tickets near you.

Janis Joplin’s complete Woodstock performance included in massive new box-set

Read the whole story at Rolling Stone.

Imagine hurtling yourself back in time to the original Woodstock festival in 1969, finding a good, relatively dry spot to chill, and settling in to hear more than three straight days of music. No, not possible, but the closest anyone may come to that experience will arrive this August. Pegged to the 50th anniversary of the event, Woodstock 50 — Back to the Garden — The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archivea 38-disc box set, will include every note of music played at the festival (save for three songs), some of it released for the first time ever.

Previous Woodstock collections, starting with the original 1970 triple LP and continuing through a 2009 multi-disc box, cherry-picked select songs (or didn’t include certain acts altogether). By comparison, Woodstock 50, to be released by Rhino, has it all: every act and 432 songs, 267 of which have never been officially released before, for a total of nearly 36 hours of recordings, along with crowd announcements (“Somebody somewhere is giving out some flat blue acid,” “Please meet Harold at the stand with the blood pills”) and other sonic memorabilia from the festival.

Complete performances of the Who, Joe Cocker, Sly and the Family Stone, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and others, along with acts who weren’t in the movie or the original Woodstock album, like the Band, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin will be available for the first time. The tracks are also arranged chronologically, by day and set times, from Richie Havens’ opening set that August Friday in 1969 to Jimi Hendrix’s festival-closing set on Monday morning. To ease the overwhelming listening experience, each act is accorded its own disc.

“There have been large boxed sets devoted to particular eras or tours — the Grateful Dead do a great job of that sort of thing — but there’s never, to my knowledge, been an attempt to present a large-scale durational experience of this sort,” says Andy Zax, the Los Angeles producer and archivist who co-produced the set with Steve Woolard. “The Woodstock tapes give us a singular opportunity for a kind of sonic time travel, and my intention is to transport people back to 1969. There aren’t many other concerts you could make this argument about.”

The box — which will also include a Blu-ray of Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock movie, a guitar strap and a replica of the original program, among other items — will cost $799. More condensed versions — a 10-disc set and a 3-disc one — will also be available.  In the mega-box, the 38th disc includes various audio flotsam. The “Groesbeek Reel,” named after festival sound recordist Charles Groesbeek, includes comments from random attendees taped by Grosbeak–like, Zax laughs, “this one guy moaning about what a disappointing experience it was and that it was a sell-out. It’s a great slice of real people in the moment reacting to it, which pleases me immensely.”

For Zax, the experience of hearing the unreleased music was often revelatory. “There was always this perception that Joplin’s set was poor and didn’t represent her at her best,” he says. “It may not have been the greatest night of her life, but listening to it on tape, it really sounds powerful.” The same, he says, goes for the Dead. The band has famously denigrated its Woodstock performance, in part due to electrical problems onstage, but Zax says, “They were a formidable performing unit in 1969, so it’s not an embarrassment.” And Zax calls Creedence’s never-heard full set “one of the best performances at Woodstock — top 3 or top 5, for sure. The fact that it wasn’t out in its entirety until now is flabbergasting.”

In general, Zax admits that some of the acts had less than pleasant recall of playing the festival, which colored their memories of the performances and made some hesitate about signing off. “There was some skepticism, like, ‘You want to issue the whole performance? Are you insane?’” he says. “There’s not one person at Woodstock who was entirely happy with what they did. Ambivalence is about the best you tend to hear from people. And others are like, ‘That was a horror show — every minute was torture.’ But it’s a big part of people’s legacy, and 50 years is the kind of number that makes people think of one’s legacy.” (As for the missing numbers: the Hendrix estate asked that two of his songs not be included, for aesthetic reasons, and one of Sha Na Na’s performances is missing due to a tape gap.)

But according to the producer, one pragmatic argument helped convince the artists or their estates to give the go-ahead for their tracks on Woodstock 50. This January, any unreleased performances or recordings from 1969 will go into the public domain — and will thereby be legal and exploitable in Europe. “Not bootleg, but legit,” he says. “So there’s a pragmatic reason for protecting your copyright on a performance.”

Looking back over the 14-year journey to the most comprehensive Woodstock set, Zax feels the arduous work was worth it. “The movie is one version of Woodstock,” he says. “This is an audio verite documentary about the Sixties.”