Arena Stage, Washington, D.C.
This new concert-style musical all but resurrects Janis Joplin, said Missy Frederick in Washingtonian.com. Mary Bridget Davies’s voice is “so raw, so powerful, and so eerily similar” to that of the late singer that the audience is transported back to that tumultuous era when the ’60s rock legend was at the height of her powers. The story, by writer/director Randy Johnson, is largely told through 24 songs, but we do get “brief, often poignant glimpses” of Joplin’s inner life as she talks about her East Texas upbringing and the profound debt she owes to the black blues singers she heard as a child. The concert format could have made for a show that lacked real drama, but Davies’s magnetic stage presence, so uncannily like Joplin’s, “packs one mighty punch.”
It’s important to note what Johnson’s story omits, said Peter Marks in The Washington Post. Joplin died from a heroin overdose at 27, but “the only acknowledgement of her drug and alcohol addictions is a bottle of hooch from which she takes a single swig.” Still, the show “sure sounds good.” Davies is sometimes accompanied by Sabrina Elayne Carten who, displaying “a variety of vocal gifts,” plays several of the divas who influenced Joplin. The scenes that segue from Carten’s credible portrayals of Nina Simone or Odetta to the next blues-tinged song by Joplin are “some of the production’s most rewarding.” You might wish for deeper insight into the singer’s self-destructive tendencies, but it’s hard to complain when Davies is up there “practically surrendering a lung for you.”