Her story, told by the Queen of Rock herself, on the concert stage, one more time
“Oh lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz … “
Janis Joplin wanted it all. And she gave all to get it.
Few voices linger in the iconography of rock like Joplin’s unique crushed velvet and broken glass rasp. All of her ecstasy, all of her pain, all of her compassion was telegraphed in that sound, whether busting out Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” or cooing Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”
A Night with Janis Joplin, a show as unique as that magic voice, plays at Capital Repertory Theatre, in a co-production with Virginia’s Barter Theatre, July 8–Aug. 7.
“Broadway’s A Night With Janis Joplin is a map of the music,” said ABC World News Now of its New York premiere. “Much more than just a concert—what this show reveals, unlike so many chronicles of Janis’ tragic life, is her joy.”
The New York Times said, “A Night With Janis Joplin at the Lyceum Theatre Rocks the house with a fervor that is riveting!”
Conceived, written and directed by Randy Johnson, A Night with Janis Joplin features all of your Joplin favorites, like “Cry Baby,” “Piece of My Heart” and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)”, but runs much deeper, too.
“This is a woman who lived her life with passion and fire.” Johnson says. “She was an artist, she was a sister, she was a friend, and people don’t really know her full story.”
Despite her swagger, Joplin was not born to the stage. She grew up in the humid Gulf Coast refinery town of Port Arthur, Tex., listening to her mother’s Broadway musicals, and singing along with her siblings. She discovered the blues on her own, and after moving to Austin, ostensibly to attend college, she began singing for her supper at Threadgill’s, a legendary honkytonk housed in a converted gas station.
One night at the club, Chet Helms promoter at San Francsico’s famed Avalon Ballroom heard her voice, accompanied only by twelve-string guitar, and whisked her away to San Francisco, where a burgeoning Haight-Ashbury scene was on the verge of exploding. A star was born. And she learned to own that stage, and front a band, in a trial by fire. Soon she would dazzle crowds from Monterey to Woodstock.
In A Night with Janis Joplin, the young artist is joined by the women she mined to create her own style, borrowing Etta James’ sassy funk, Aretha Franklin’s graceful soul and Nina Simone’s searing focus. Each sings on their own, and with Joplin. So do folk and blues paragons Odetta and Bessie Smith. Longtime Joplin devotees will love hearing the source material live; those just learning about her legend will be stunned by revelatory renditions of “Tell Mama,” “Spirit in the Dark,” “Little Girl Blue,” “Down on Me” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.”
“She was influenced by these incredible legends and she became who she was because of that,” Johnson says. “That’s what inspired me to tell her story. I’d spent a lot of time listening to their work. We were all friends before I went into this, so to speak.”
A Night with Janis Joplin, which debuted on Broadway in 2013, is a celebration of one of America’s true talents, capturing Joplin in her prime, where she belonged, in front of an adoring audience, singing favorites like “Turtle Blues,” “Stay With Me,” and “Combination of the Two.”
Johnson, who will be at theREP to direct Kelly McIntyre in the title role, says, “If you want to hear truth, integrity and raw passion in a voice, just listen to Janis.”
The director, who will be assisted by Grady McLeod Bowman, also worked closely with the singer’s family while creating A Night with Janis Joplin—“They told me a lot of stories that made it into the show,” he says.
A graduate of the USC School of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, Johnson’s work has been seen on Broadway, off Broadway, in Las Vegas and in regional theatres across the United States and Canada; as well as worldwide in such diverse venues as Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Apollo Theatre, Wembley Arena, The Savoy Theatre (in London’s West End), the Grand Ole Opry and The Ryman Auditorium. As a published playwright and director he has created theatrical musical portraits of such icons as Elvis Presley, Louis Prima & Keely Smith and Conway Twitty.
Kelly McIntyre brings an uncanny realism to her role as the Queen of Rock. McIntyre, who earned a BFA in Musical Theatre from The Hartt School of Music, has toured with A Night with Janis Joplin and her music has been performed at venues including Joe’s Pub, 54 Below, New York Musical Festival, Musical Theatre Factory and New York Theatre Ballet.
At certain performances, Kristin Piacentile, also a veteran of the show, will play the Joplin role. Piacentile sings in Laura Worsham’s Sky-Pony, and has worked in the development of ZM: A Zombie Musical and Home Street Home at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.
Joining McIntyre onstage, and playing roles as the Joplinaires, the classic girl group The Chantels and Joplin’s incredible muses, are Danyel Fulton (who also assays Joplin’s traditional roots), Jannie Jones, Nikita R. Jones and Kimberly Ann Steel.
Fulton (Blues Singer) made her Capital Repertory Theatre debut last season in The Trip to Bountiful. Jannie Jones (Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone) played the title role in theREP/Virginia Stage Company co-production of Black Pearl Sings and recently starred as B.J. in theREP’s production of Smokey Joe’s Café. Youngtown, Ohio native Nikita R. Jones (Bessie Smith, Odetta) is marking her first professional production with A Night with Janis Joplin. And Steele (Etta James) trained at the Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program at UCLA and has appeared extensively on the west coast with stints at the Mark Taper Forum, Hollywood Bowl and Pasadena Playhouse among others.
The onstage band, led by music director and keyboardist Todd Olson, includes guitarists Michael Karcher and Nick Novelli, bassist Kevin Bohen, drummer Joe Barna, trombonist Dave Rydelink and trumpeter Tim Wendt.
The design team for A Night with Janis Joplin includes Musical Supervisor Michael Moritz, Lighting Designer Ryan J. O’Gara and Set Designer Brian Prather.
Preview performances for A Night with Janis Joplin take place July 8–10. Opening night is Tuesday, July 12. Regular performances continue through Sunday, Aug. 7. Performance times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday—with matinees 3 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; and 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 4. Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl Street, Albany. Tickets range from $25 to $55. Students with valid ID: $16 all shows. For tickets and information, call Tickets By Proctors, (518) 445-SHOW (7469) or visit capitalrep.org.
Opening night includes live music in the café at 6:30 p.m., and complimentary post-show champagne and dessert. The Chef’s Table performance, on Tuesday, July 19, includes live pre-show music and complimentary hors d’oeuvres for ticket holders, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby.
The Sunday, July 31 matinee will be preceded by a Behind-the-Scenes event, which features complimentary light breakfast fare, from Cider Belly Doughnuts, for ticket holders, and discussion led by theREP’s Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. Food service begins at 12:30 p.m., with the presentation following from 1-1:30 p.m.
A Night with Janis Joplin at Capital Repertory Theatre is part of the 2016-2017 KeyBank Season.