A Night with Janis Joplin: Created, written, and directed by Randy Johnson. American Conservatory Theater (ACT), 415 Geary St., San Francisco, CA. (415) 749-2228 or www.act-sf.org. Through July 9, 2017
A Night with Janis Joplin celebrates the 1967 Summer of Love Rating:
‘My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—It gives a lovely light!’ Edna St. Vincent Millay during the 1940s was an idol of the younger generation during the glorious early days of Greenwich Village and her ‘candle poem’ was their mantra. Janis Joplin was an icon of the 60s generation and is inextricably tied to the Summer of Love and rock ‘n’ roll music that exploded on the San Francisco scene 5o years ago. She too burned her candle at both ends dying at age 27. Whereas the Greenwich Village era is long forgotten, Janis Joplin and the flower children hype live on and there is no better way to soak up nostalgia about that era then to see Kacee Clanton as Janis Joplin at the A.C.T. Geary Theater.
Creator, writer and director Randy Johnson has fashioned an extravagant concert style revue with a nine piece rock band with amplification rivaling the decibel levels of any rock outdoor concert and uses psychedelic projections probably symbolic of the drug era. These trappings are synergetic rather than distracting allowing the singing to take top billing.
It is a biographical journey that emphasizes the influence some of the great blues and soul singers as Joplin states, “I think I sound like a white chick singin’ the blues.” When she sings “Summertime” the ache in her voice and her phrasing are uniquely Joplin with no need for attribution. Those who influenced her distinctive style of singing include Chantel (Catherine Brown), Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone (Ashely Tama Davis), Etta James (Tawny Dolly), Odetta and Bessie Smith (Sylvia Maccalla).
Clanton throws her whole body and soul into her performance with visible sweat under her mop of unruly red hair. Her raspy voice gives emphasis to each word or phrase creating a dichotomy of pain and adulation. Many of the signature songs include “Tell Momma”, “My Baby”, “Turtle Blues”, “Summertime”, “Down on Me” and “Piece of My Mind” in act one.
There is plenty left for act two with “Try (Just a little bit harder)”, “Maybe”, “Cry Baby”, ‘Little Girl Blue”, “Me and Bobby McGee”, “I’m Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven”, “Ball and Chain” ending with an audience favorite “Mercedes Benz” (‘Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?) that has the house rocking for a standing ovation. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission. It is highly recommended if you are into rock ‘n’ roll and can tolerate over-amplification. It is the perfect vehicle for San Franciscans celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.
CAST: Janis Joplin, Kacee Clanton; Joplinaire, Blues Singer, Chantel, Sharon Catherine Brown; Joplinaire, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Blues Woman, Chantel, Ashley Tamar Davis; Joplinaire, Etta James, Chantel, Tawny Dolley; Joplinaire, Odetta, Bessie Smith, Chantel, Sylvia Maccalla; Janis Joplin Alternate Kelly Mcintyre.
CREATIVE TEAM: Created, written, and directed by Randy Johnson, Todd Olson (Music Director), Mike Baldassari and Gertjan Houben (Lighting Designers), Amy Clark (Costume Designer), Rob Bissinger (Scenic Designer), Ben Selke (Sound Designer), Darrel Maloney (Projection Designer), and Patricia Wilcox (Choreographer).
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.
Kacee Clanton as the iconic Janis Joplin in Broadway’s critically acclaimed musical A Night with Janis Joplin performing at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater now through Sunday, July 9. Background (L-R): Mike Smith and Michael Lent