One Night with Janis Joplin: Arena ready to rock - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

One Night with Janis Joplin: Arena ready to rock

When a musical is about 1960s Rock ‘n’ Roll royalty, how loud is too loud?

This was the dilemma that sound designer Carl Casella tackled when he joined the creative team for “One Night with Janis Joplin,” which opens Friday at Arena Stage  in Washington, D.C.

The show was too loud during its premier run at Oregon’s Portland Center Stage in 2011, Casella said from what he could gather. Rock ‘n’ Roll concerts are not the same as musicals; they do not have the same audience, added Casella, who was a Rock ‘n’  Roll producer in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Musicals cannot be as a loud as concerts otherwise people do not pay attention to the story, he explained. In musicals it is important to give dialogue “time to breath.” If you just assault the audience with sound, the show loses the dynamic, he said.

Mary Bridget Davies stars as Janis Joplin in the Cleveland Play House production of “One Night with Janis Joplin.” Written and directed by Randy Johnson, the musical premiers in Washington, D.C., at Arena Stage Sept. 28. (Photo by Janet Macoska)

Casella joined a production with more than a dozen band members and singers, including Mary Bridget Davies now in the title role. Proving that Cleveland rocks, the Lakewood native performs with Joplin’s original band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Davies started as an understudy, but ultimately took center stage on opening night when “One Night” moved to the Cleveland Play House in July and August of this year. Her performances in Washington will include classic hits such as “Piece of My Heart,” “Summertime” and “Mercedes Benz.”

“One Night” explores Joplin’s life and influences. Sabrina Elayne Carten plays the Blues Singer who plays homage to the artists who influenced Joplin, including Bessie Smith, Etta James and Aretha Franklin.

Audiences may be surprised about Joplin’s upbringing. The hard-living performer grew up singing songs from Broadways musicals such as “Okalahoma.”

“One Night” associate musical director and guitarist Stephen Flakus described the performance as a wonderful recreation, faithful to the tones and sounds, of Joplin’s music. “It’s a joy to recreate moments for people who’ve seen Janis before,” Flakus said.

Created, written and directed by Randy Johnson, “One Night” has the support of The Estate of Janis Joplin.

“Whether you like Janis Joplin or not, you have to see this show,” Casella said. “This show, besides good music, you’re drawn into this world and her life. There is much more around this person than the hype or the legend. There’s an incredibly deep and emotional side to this person.”

“One Night with Janis Joplin” is playing at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., through Nov. 4. Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Noon matinees are Oct. 10, Oct. 16 and Oct. 31. Tickets start at $45.  For more information call 202 -488-3300.



About the author

Megan Kuhn

Megan Kuhn is a financial literacy advocate by day and a theater fan by night. One of her favorite possessions is the red jacket from “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” that she purchased at a costume sale at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Contact the author.

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