Janis Joplin did the dishes and was part of a family that knew she could sing, and was concerned about her safety as much as her success, her brother Michael Joplin says. "She wasn't a superstar in training," he recalled recently in a a phone interview.
But of course, that's what she became, and her death has done little to diminish that.
She was only 27 when she died of a drug overdose and even though that was 45 years ago, she has a Facebook page, official website and twitter feed — all of them remaining active today. Joplin, the raspy-voiced singer from Port Arthur, Texas, who even after all her fame never did lose all the demons, is now – in her latest incarnation – the main character in A Night With Janis Joplin, coming to the Alley Theatre.
Her brother produced the play as well as the recent documentary Janis, Little Girl Lost. “It's an evening of Janis Joplin. She's talking to the audience, and she gets to sing along with some of her inspirations in music – Odetta, Billie Holiday,” Joplin says.
Janis Joplin was renowned for her electric live performances at Monterey and Woodstock, and her brother and sister Laura wanted to recapture that and give audiences a chance to experience that live, Michael Joplin says. How she would have dealt with today's Auto-Tuned world is a real question, he says.
"The reality of her performances — they are visceral, they're not canned, they're not staged," he says. "Look at some of the films from back then. It's a festival and you're looking at the top names and they've got like three amps onstage and that's it. These guys are just rocking it out. We wanted to make it real."
Casting for the show can be difficult, Joplin said, finding someone who can recapture some of his sister's style. “It's been an interesting task finding women who can let it rip. We ask the girls to bring out their inner Janis. To start singing real and honest, and it's hard to find people who can do that.” Kacee Clanton will play her in the show at the Alley.
Houston audiences can see how close they've been able to come with a song list that includes “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” “Cry Baby” and “Summertime.”
Performances are scheduled for August 19 through September 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $29-$77.