Mary Bridget Davies takes the stage as Janis Joplin.
The Queen of Rock and Roll is resurrected in playwright-director Randy Johnson’s musical event, One Night with Janis Joplin, which runs at Arena Stage from September 28 through November 4.
Packed with classic songs like “Piece of My Heart” and “Summertime,” Johnson says that the show presents Joplin’s life through music and spotlights influencers like Aretha Franklin and Etta James. Cleveland native Mary Bridget Davies stars as the iconic singer herself, and Joplin’s original band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, figures prominently.
Attendees can claim a full concert experience with this production, which comprises over a dozen singers and band members. “In a way, the seed of this play was planted when I was around five years old,” Johnson says. “Some of my first musical memories are of listening to Janis’ Cheap Thrills album.” When his good friend (and Janis Joplin estate manager) Jeff Jampol, asked if he would like to meet with Joplin’s siblings, Laura and Michael, to discuss the possibility of writing a play about her, Johnson settled on his stage concept.
The veteran director went on to peruse Joplin’s archives and photos, read unpublished journals, listen to everything she’d ever recorded, and converse for “countless hours” with Joplin’s siblings. “I did everything I could do to live and breathe Janis Joplin,” he says. “[She] achieved success at a time where it wasn’t manufactured pop culture—she simply sang and spoke truth, and the audiences came.”
Now, Johnson is looking forward to this local show. “When an artist takes the audience on a journey for an evening where you learn something, get entertained, and leave thinking some new thoughts, then the artist and the director have done their job,” Johnson muses. “A great concert is great theater done right.” Tickets available at arenastage.org. 101 6th St. Southwest, 202-488-3300