Freedom's more than just another word for "nothing left to lose" for cast members of Off-Broadway's Love, Janis—it's the preferred modus operandi.
On June 2, the musical tribute to rock singer Janis Joplin lost another star when Laura Branigan abruptly exited after two performances. Her departure follows the equally-quick vanishing act of "Felicity" star Amy Jo Johnson, who also managed just two shows. Kristen Lee Kelly, formerly of Rent, left the show after a brief stay as well.
Branigan, the long-maned, husky-voiced pop singer who had a monster early-80s hit with the synthesizer-powered "Gloria," left due to "personal reasons," according to the show's spokesperson, who also added that the singer's absence is "temporary," indicated a possible return sometime in the future.
Johnson skedaddled because of "scheduling conflicts." Both she and Branigan alternated performances as "singing Janis" (the show currently features two actresses who belt out Joplin's songlist and two other actresses who play the "talking Janis," narrating the rocker's story). According to some sources, both Johnson and Branigan were bested by the rigors of Joplin's full-throated vocal style.
Branigan is no stranger to belting out pop tunes. In addition to "Gloria," her many melodramatic hits included "Solitaire," "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" and "Self Control." She recently returned to the concert stage, playing dates at New York's CBGBs. Johnson, who juggles recording and acting careers, played a supporting role on the New York-set college drama "Felicity."
Love, Janis turned one year old on April 22. The production plays the Village Theatre and currently features original star Cathy Richardson and Katrina Carter, alternating as "singing Janis," and original star Catherine Curtin (who took a break to act in the Manhattan Ensemble Theatre's The Castle) and Amelia Campbell, taking turns as "speaking Janis." Kate Forbes, of the Public Theater's recent Othello, will replace Campbell on June 17.
Love, Janis: The Songs, The Soul of Janis Joplin was conceived, adapted and directed by Randal Myler. The show played the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island, in summer 2000.
For tickets and information on Love, Janis at the Village Theatre, 158 Bleecker Street, call (212) 307-4100. Also visit their website at www.lovejanis.com.
—By Robert Simonson