By Bill Garry
A Night with Janis Joplin at the La Mirada Theatre
Photo by Jason Niedle
Editors Note: Discover Hollywood's roving reporter Bill Garry ventured down to La Mirada to bring us this review.
Randy Johnson's A Night with Janis Joplin turns the plush La Mirada Theater into a rocking 1960's rave. Janis Joplin, played with exhilarating vocal chops by Mary Bridget Davies (who was nominated for a Tony for originating the role on Broadway), is our host. She belts, charms, and cajoles the audience into jumping to their feet with a musical set that includes her biggest hits -- "Piece of My Heart," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Me and Bobby McGee," "Mercedes Benz," and more.
Photo by Jason Niedle
Janis tries to keep a chipper face throughout, but she is more than a little frayed around the edges. She unabashedly drinks from a bottle of Southern Comfort. She dances free-spiritedly around the musicians. And, in her monologues, she swings from devoted artist to party girl to dark philosopher.
The entire company is made up of veteran performers from the show's previous Broadway run and national tours. The 8-piece band, working together and as solos, is superb (be warned: they are loud.) The Joplinaires -- Aurianna Angelique, Ashley Tamar Davis, Tawny Dolley and Jennifer Leigh Warren -- sizzle as Janis' back-up vocalists and dazzle in featured roles. The show is beautifully designed -- rear-projections are used to set psychedelic moods and share family photos.
The man responsible for this concert/theatre work is writer/director Randy Johnson, who worked with the Joplin family to dig deep into Janis' thoughts and feelings during her fantastic rise and flame-out. Janis died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27.
Johnson has Janis talk deeply about the great blues artists that inspired her. She introduces Etta James, Odetta, The Chantels, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin, who then appear on stage (portrayed by the Joplinaires actresses) to sing some of their greatest hits, too. Aretha Franklin, played by a saucy and stunning Ms. Davis, stops the show.
After we meet these musical legends, Janis, with the help of her 8-piece band, reprises their songs and shows why she has earned her place among them in musical heaven.
A Night with Janis Joplin plays at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts thru Oct 7.
Tickets can be purchased at La Mirada Theatre's website, www.lamiradatheatre.com or by calling the La Mirada Theatre Box Office at (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310
LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS is located at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard in La Mirada, near the intersection of Rosecrans Avenue where the 91 and 5 freeways meet. Parking is free.