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A CurtainUp NJ Review
A Night with Janis Joplin
It is safe to assume that her alternate Kacee Clanton who played Janis on opening night and who was an alternate in the 2013 Broadway production is also great. Having an alternate is certainly understandable considering the demanding, hell-fired vocals that define Joplin's style. Part of the excitement for me was seeing how McIntyre and her company were able to whip up a matinee crowd that filled only about half of the theatre.
The flashing, crisscrossing beams of light (by lighting designer Mike Baldassari) that streak around the theater at the beginning are meant to dazzle. It's all in anticipation of Janis Joplin, whose life was tragically ended at the age of twenty-seven by an overdose of drugs.
It doesn't take long for this Joplin to transcend the obligatory razzle-dazzle. It was gratifying to hear the increase of applause, shouts and whistles that greeted the singer and the entire company throughout this searing biographical concert, earnestly written and smartly directed by Randy Johnson.
Extraordinary support comes from super singers Sharon Catherine Brown, Tawny Dolley, Sylvia MacCalla, Amma Osei. Billed as The Joplinaires they not only do back up but also get their own individual spotlight to evoke such late great ladies of jazz as Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Odetta, Aretha Franklin and Etta James, The Chantels and a Blues Singer.
A sensational band of eight did more than serve as back-up as their splendid playing enveloped the theatre. My more knowledgeable companion noted that this band was far better than the one that Janis had. I wish the sound designer would finesse the amplification so that lyrics to songs could be heard better than they are.
Except for the cast, the show has not changed since my 2013 I reviewed CurtainUp which includes a song list. You can check it out here . .
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A Night with Janis Joplin
Created, Written and Directed by Randy Johnson
Cast: Kacee Clanton and Kelly McIntyre (alternating as Janis Joplin) Sharon Catherine Brown (Blues Singer, Chantel), Tawny Dolley (Etta James, Chantel), Sylvia MacCalla (Odetta, Bessie Smith, Chantel) Amma Osei (Blues Woman, Chantel
Choreographer: :Patricia Wilcox
Original Music Arrangements: Len Rhodes
Music Director: Todd Olson
Set Design: Rob Bissinger
Costume Design: Amy Clark
Lighting Design: Mike Baldassari
Sound Design: Ben Selke
Projection Design: Darrel Maloney
Production Stage Manager: Hethyr (Red) Verhoef
Matthews Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton, N.J.
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes including intermission
Performances: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2p.m.
From 10/10/17 Opened 10/13/17 Ends 10/29/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on matinee performance 10/14/17
NJ Theatre Alliance
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