Theater Review: Francesca Ferrari Captures a Rock Icon's Reckless Conviction in A Night with Janis Joplin | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Theater Review: Francesca Ferrari Captures a Rock Icon's Reckless Conviction in A Night with Janis Joplin

Posted by on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 2:57 PM

click to enlarge Paige McNamara as Janis Joplin - PHOTO BY CURTIS BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • photo by Curtis Brown Photography
  • Paige McNamara as Janis Joplin
A Night with Janis Joplin
★★★★
Through Sunday, May 20
Fletcher Opera Theater, Raleigh


It’s the matter-of-fact delivery that makes the line so devastating. “People like their blues singers miserable,” Janis Joplin says. “People like their blues singers to die.” Boom. All the light and air go out of the room as designer Ryan O’Gara silhouettes the vulnerable rock star in a single cold, white spotlight. There are other moments that qualify NC Theatre’s production of A Night with Janis Joplin as something of a musical séance, at least when Francesca Ferrari is at the helm as the title character. (We didn't see Paige McNamara, who plays the role on alternating nights.) But none of them underline the ultimate price of fame better than this.

Credit playwright and director Randy Johnson for making what could have been a single-sided rave-up into a tribute not only to Joplin, but the women who most directly influenced her sound. A choir of African-American gospel, jazz, blues, and soul singers, including Bessie Smith, Etta James, Nina Simone, and the Chantelles, take the spotlight in a series of convincing cameos. Tawney Dolley channels Etta James as she groans into “Tell Mama," punctuating her performance with a signature flourish of costume designer LeGrande Smith's sequined skirt. Jennifer Leigh Warren crouches down to testify and music director Alex Prezzano’s tight horn section digs in on “Today I Sing the Blues.”

Ferrari captures Joplin’s conviction and her crazy, reckless grin in the soul-baring monologues that stitch together the musical supplications of “Piece of My Heart,” “Cry Baby,” and “Try.” With her estate directly involved, this musical glosses over the rawest parts of her story, and Eric Alexander Collins’s timid sound design never calls for the ear plugs available in the lobby. Still, Ferrari conveys the intensity and bedrock blues verities of one of the all-time great women of rock. Recommended.

Tags: , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

Here's a shout-out to the dancers and musicians of The Bipeds who are not mentioned by name in this article. …

by The Bipeds on Dance Review: The Many Moving Parts of The Bipeds' 54 Strange Words Don't Always Perfectly Mesh. But When They Do, It's Spectacular. (Arts)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Here's a shout-out to the dancers and musicians of The Bipeds who are not mentioned by name in this article. …

by The Bipeds on Dance Review: The Many Moving Parts of The Bipeds' 54 Strange Words Don't Always Perfectly Mesh. But When They Do, It's Spectacular. (Arts)

You probably want to refrain from using ableist language.

by vidvis on ADF Review: Pilobolus's Crowd-Pleasing Dance Is Apolitical. Unfortunately, the World It Inhabits Is Not. (Arts)

I love stories like this.

by JoeJoey on A Villain Burglarized All Three Ultimate Comics Stores Last Night (Arts)

Mr. Woods must have seen a very different production than the one I saw or perhaps he was having an …

by Amy Ginsburg on Theater Review: Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Songs Can't Quite Shine Through a Patchy Production of Spring Awakening (Arts)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation