Advance Tickets Recommended
Mary Bridget Davies, Kacee Clanton, Taprena Michelle Augustine, Allison Blackwell, De’Adre Aziza, Nikki Kimbrough
1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S at Times Sq.-42nd St.; B, D, F, M at 42nd St.-Bryant Park
||Tue-Thu, 7pm; Fri-Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, 2pm; Sun, 3pm|
Has the theater district struck a deal with Madame Tussaud’s? Lady Day, the Bronx Bombers, and now Janis Joplin are all treading the boards in midtown, as live waxworks have taken over live theater, en masse. The performances in these sorts of shows usually range from very good to altogether remarkable (I’d put Mary Bridget Davies’s Janis in the latter category), but golly, how soon before Times Square’s own Angry Elmo and Unironic Iron Man rent out the Cort?
A Night With Janis Joplin is not a play or a musical but a Concert Experience conceived, written, and directed by Randy Johnson, who also wrangled Mike Tyson’s one-man show last season. (Johnson’s online bio contains this breathtaking credit: “Randy staged and directed Pope Benedict’s most recent appearance in New York.”) Where does one go after Tyson and the papacy? To Port Arthur, Texas, where a little girl who grew up singing show tunes and revering the doyennes of blues-singing (Odetta, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone) began to transform herself into rock’s founding goddess of inspired self-destruction. Don’t expect much in the way of personal revelation or public misbehavior. Apart from sucking on a bottle of Southern Comfort, this Janis is quite composed and sedate between songs. She tells charming stories about housecleaning, her family, her favorite 45s. Johnson’s script has been carefully policed by the Joplin estate, which consists of Janis’s siblings—thus, it’s long on stories about her siblings and short on just about everything else. If an alien landed in the theater, seeking knowledge of Janis Joplin, its report to the mother ship would describe a mild, genial hippie redneck whose onstage routine included the occasional nip of hooch—basically Ron White in combat boots and batik, with a song in his heart.