Piece of My Heart
“A Night with Janis Joplin” Brings ‘60s Icon to Life
The Birth Mother of Blues Rock, Janis Joplin is among the most notable musicians of the turbulent psychedelic ‘60s. Her electrifying live performances continue to fascinate musicians and music lovers 47 years after her death, and now audiences can experience what it was like to see Joplin at her explosive peak as the Tony-award nominated “A Night with Janis Joplin,” comes to Derry’s Stockbridge Theatre this Friday, November 17.
Co-written by the Joplin family and director Randy Johnson, the show, which ran on Broadway for 141 performances, is a musical biography of Joplin. We witness her transformation from pimply-faced and awkward teenager to rock-and-roll icon with a trademark, Southern Comfort-stained voice and fearless performance style.
Growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, Joplin and her siblings did their Sunday chores while humming along to show tunes as their mother played Broadway records like “Oklahoma” and “Porgy and Bess.” These chores inspired one of Joplin’s most famous covers — her gritty and raw version of “Summertime,” in which she ripped apart a classic opera piece and nailed it back together as a ragged rock ballad. The show helps us further understand her creative development as we see how blues and jazz powerhouses such as Odetta, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin inspired Joplin to discover her unique voice.
According to producer Todd Gershwin, the show is 50 percent traditional Broadway musical and 50 percent rock concert. Both musical theater enthusiasts and rock-and-rollers have found themselves entranced while stepping into its heady time machine.
Methuen native Alex Prezzano, a professional musician now living in New York City, is currently serving as touring guitarist. When asked what makes “A Night with Janis Joplin” unique, Prezzano responds that you get to experience a rock concert, learn a lesson in music history and witness the alternatively thrilling and tragic story of a musical hero. Joplin’s death by heroin overdose at the age of 27 remains a sobering reminder of the fragility of life and the dark side of fame.
The Derry performance of the national tour is co-presented by the Tupelo Music Hall and begins at 8:00 p.m. Purchase tickets at stockbridgetheatre.com.