One Night With Janis Joplin

17 May One Night With Janis Joplin

Thursday, May 17, 2012, 11:43 AM
By Andrea Simakis, The Plain Dealer

‘One Night With Janis Joplin’ to hit Play House stage this summer

Janis Joplin died too soon in 1970, but her songs and legend live on in “One Night With Janis Joplin,” a new musical hitting the Cleveland Play House stage this summer.

With a few notable exceptions, the 96-year-old theater is usually dark during the hot-weather months. But the opportunity to kick off the North American tour of a show featuring performances of Joplin classics “Mercedes Benz,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Cry Baby,” as well as other work the rock icon never formally recorded, was too good to pass up, said artistic director Michael Bloom.

“We thought it was really a perfect project for us for a lot of reasons,” Bloom said by phone from New York, where he is casting the fall shows “Lombardi” and “The Whipping Man.”

One of those reasons is “Love, Janis,” a musical about the late blues-rocker based on the book of the same title written by Joplin’s sister, Laura. The show premiered in March 1999 at the Drury Theatre — long before the company moved to PlayhouseSquare — featured three actresses sharing the role of Joplin and became one of the top-selling shows in Play House history, Bloom said.

Another reason is location, location, location. Though a version of “One Night” had its world premiere in Portland, Ore., in 2011, a new production that will go on the road is being built in Cleveland, an appropriate launch pad, given that the city is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. (Joplin was inducted in the Class of 1995.)

“The Joplin estate is really excited about starting it in Cleveland,” Bloom said.

Laura Joplin, who gave creator Randy Johnson “unprecedented access” to Joplin family archives to build the show, visited Cleveland in 2009 to accept an American Music Masters Award on her sister’s behalf.

After its run at the Allen Theatre in PlayhouseSquare, “One Night” will travel to the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., “and that will open their season,” Bloom said.

“To have an opportunity to start a production that’s going to tour? You don’t get that very often.”