One Night With Janis Joplin

a kate west review
created, written, directed  by Randy Johnson
starring Mary Bridget Davies
at the Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena 91101
call (626) 356-PLAY (7529) or click here (
running March 15 – April 21, 2013

Janis Joplin. Queen of Rock and Roll. Legend. Icon. Tragic figure. The young lady with the smokey bluesy voice. Once you heard it, you never, ever forgot it. She was big, as in larger than life, consuming and sharing music with a vibrant passion. It is hard to define a soulful voice of pain. But Joplin had it. As did Billie Holiday. These were voices that spoke to the deep ache within and moved you out of your head and into a world of feeling. Joplin learned from the best voices: Bessie Smith, Etta James, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, just to name a few. She destroyed any preconceived notions of female performers and unapologetically put herself smack in the middle of rock and roll history forever. If you never had the luck to hear her in concert, now's your chance.

The Pasadena Playhouse presents "One Night With Janis Joplin", starring Mary Bridget Davies as the volatile and utterly relatable Janis. Accompanied by fine rock and jazz musicians and back-up singers, Davies plays the "live" version of Joplin, up close and personal. Her iconic influences (Smith, James, Simone, Franklin) join her from time to time in the form of Sabrina Elayne Carten, who charges up the stage with dynamic intensity. Talk about playing to the crowd. She'll have you dancing in the aisles.

And then there's Mary Bridget Davies. Don't look for a one-woman show or a straight biography. This is a real and raw version of Janis, giving us a real honest-to-God rock concert, just like in the old days. Davies resurrects the unforgettable Janis, matching her singularly raspy voice  (and clothing) with enormous enthusiasm and tremendous skill. In between (and during) sets, she talks to us, like Janis would, with that iconic growly laugh, telling us that nothing made her feel more alive than being with us, on stage, hearing that spirit-lifting applause. Davies is able to channel the rock star so acutely that for a moment you are transported back to a time where sex, drugs and rock and roll began, way, way back all the way. To the 1960's. Hers is a definitive performance that must not be missed. Not too many shows in Los Angeles need standing ovations (seriously we must stop standing for every single show already) but this one truly does. It demands acknowledgement for the blood, sweat and tears so obviously wrung out (from the past to the present) and given live, just for us. Lucky, lucky us. Randy Johnson is to be commended for his excellent idea of this show, come to life in such big style. You can feel Janis still with us, her presence felt so strongly as Davies sings to the rafters.

No one sang like Janis. She did amazing original music as well as amazing revamping of old music. No one had her kind of broad style either. We all know that Joplin died too young. This performance doesn't speak to that, except to say that Joplin was happiest on stage, singing her heart out, and who can really sustain that depth of need?

"I think I sound like a white chick singing the 'blues'. There was just something about that ache I heard that got me bad. After all, the blues is just a bad woman feeling good." - Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

A sampling of just some of the great classic Joplin songs you will hear:

Bye Bye Baby
Ball and Chain
Piece of My Heart
Me and Bobby McGee
Mercedes Benz

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Mary Bridget Davies and Sabrina Elayne Carten in a scene from “One Night With Janis Joplin.” Photo by Janet Macoska. 

Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin. Photo by Jim Cox.

Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin. Photo by Jim Cox. Read more!