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NY1 Theater Review: 'A Night With Janis Joplin'

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A new Broadway musical entitled "A Night With Janis Joplin" offers up a look at the brief life and the music of rock 'n' roll legend Janis Joplin. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

The great raspy-voiced singer dubbed "The Queen Of Psychedelic Soul" died at a tragically young 27 of a heroin overdose in 1970, but she remains a music icon, and capitalizing on that fame, the producers of "A Night With Janis Joplin" have found a vocal clone in Mary Bridget Davies.

And true to those lyrics, she does sing her heart out, performing Joplin's best known numbers. But that's not all. Writer/director Randy Johnson added roles for four other singers playing the likes of superstars Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Nina Simone and Bessie Smith, and one by one, they rock your socks off.
 
The show, designed as a Joplin concert, has Davies doing some considerable talking between the songs. We learn about her Texas roots, her musical loving mother, and mostly, her devotion to the blues. What we don't hear about are the dark sides of her short life – the drug addiction and the booze, to be precise. And that's a big problem because it's obvious we're getting a very incomplete picture of the troubled star.   
 
But the music's the thing here, and that's not likely to disappoint. Backed by an awesome seven-piece band, the five singers are phenomenal. Their pliable voices brilliantly capture the nuances of the legends they portray. And it's a particular treat to hear them sing standard versions of classic numbers followed by Joplin's bluesy takes.
 
Davies' physical resemblance is limited to hair and costume, but none of it matters once she opens up that glorious sandpaper voice. And fans who never saw Joplin in concert, wondering what they missed, should find an instant jolt in this, the next best thing.

For some reason, the elaborate lights are designed to flash blindingly into the audience. But neither that nor the sanitized biography is likely to bother the most rabid fans, as long as they don't mess with the music. It's just that good.

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