Most people view legendary artist Janis Joplin for what she was- an icon and a true original. Just in case there’s any doubt about her prolific talent or legacy, however, it’s all cleared up in A Night with Janis Joplin, onstage now through North Carolina Theatre and under the direction of Randy Johnson, who also serves as the writer.
At Friday’s opening night performance, the audience was actually treated to Johnson’s presence, as well as the presence of Laura Joplin, Janis’ sister. And, while their presence certainly added to the austerity of the production, it would have been wonderful no matter what.
Reviewer Susie Potter poses with Laura Joplin
That’s because this production lives up to its name. It truly is like being in Janis’ presence. The personal touch her concerts were known for comes through in this celebration of her life and music, thanks in large part to a strong performance from Francesca Ferrari in the title role and perfect details from the production crew.
Francesca Ferrari played Janis Joplin on May 4th (photo by Karen Santos Photography)
LeGrande Smith has truly outdone herself with costumes here. Each of Janis’ outfits, which are designed to replicate real-life ensembles of the performer, are intricately perfect down to the last stitch. Even the background performers feature era-specific costumes that lend a real authenticity to the production.
And speaking of authenticity, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect Janis Joplin than Ferrari. However, Paige McNamara will get her own chance since the demanding role calls for different main actresses at each performance. It’s easy to see why this is necessary too since the role requires the actress to belt out a plethora of tough-to-master songs in this two-hour long performance.
Ferrari proves she’s up to the challenge, however. With a perfectly throaty voice, she makes her way through each of Janis’ most prolific songs, effectively showcasing the artist’s unique sound. Ferrari also does well delivering the bits of history sewn in through brief, authentic monologues woven between songs. Swigging booze and “telling it like it is,” Ferrari truly captures the spirit of the late, great Janis Joplin.
She is not alone onstage however. Backed by a killer band and several other performers, including a standout performance from Nattalyee Randall as Aretha Franklin, the production showcases not just Janis Joplin but some of her major influences as well.
All in all, this production is like stepping back in time and getting the one thing all Janis Joplin fans hope for- just one more night with Janis.
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