Thirty years after her death at the age of 27, rock singer Janis Joplin will be remembered at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island, in Love, Janis: the Songs, The Soul of Janis Joplin, a new musical conceived, adapted and directed by Randal Myler. The production, the third in the Bay Street season, runs July 19 to Aug. 6.
Joplin rose to prominence in 1967 as the gritty, bluesy vocalist of the band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, wailing the lyrics of the hit "Piece of My Heart." She went on to solo success and scored a number one single with "Me and Bobby McGee" -- although the song didn't hit until after Joplin had succumbed to a heroin overdose in 1970.
As befitting a larger-than-life figure like Joplin, the title role will be filled by three actresses. Catherine Curtin will play the "talking Janis," reading the singer's private letters home, while two performers -- Cathy Richardson and Andra C. Mitrovich -- will alternate as the "singing Janis." The double casting is presumedly due to the rigors of Joplin's searing vocal style.
A figure from Joplin history will be on hand to make certain the singer's material is justly represented: Sam Andrew, the lead guitarist and founder of Big Brother and the Holding Company, will act as the show's musical director.
Love, Janis was previously seen at the Cleveland Playhouse, Denver Center Theatre Company and Chicago's Royal George Theatre. The Bay Street run precedes a planned New York City engagement. Myler directed and co-authored Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, which won Tony nominations for best musical and best book a couple seasons back.
* Kaufman and Hart are getting the royal treatment this summer in the New York area. Already underway is a Broadway production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company, beginning June 30. Nathan Lane and Jean Smart will head the cast, which is deep with theatre pros such as Lewis J. Stadlen, Byron Jennings and Terry Beaver.
A few hours east of Gotham, meanwhile, the Bay Street Theatre Company of Sag Harbor, Long Island, is offering You Can't Take It with You and a cast nearly as packed with theatre stalwarts as Dinner. Mason Adams, of television's "Lou Grant" and the stage's Lake Hollywood, will play Martin Vanderhoff, the patriarch of the comedy's different drummer family. Backing him up with by Tony-winner Roger Bart (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) as Ed, Joan Copeland (The Torch Bearers) as Mrs. Kirby, Jennifer Dundas Lowe (Arcadia, Good as New) as Alice, Penny Fuller (A New Brain) as Penelope Sycamore and Mary Testa (On the Town, Marie Christine) as Olga.
Completing the cast are Shelley Dulaney, John Fiedler, Jonathan Freeman, Bryan Hicks, Tom Gustin, Larry Keith, Talmadge Lowe and Roz Ryan. Jack Hofsiss directs. The show runs through Sept. 3.
The Ibsen and Kaufman and Hart revivals mark a new direction for the Bay Street, which has, until now, focuses primarily on new plays and American premieres. A Bay Street spokesman said the theatre had made a conscious choice to stage more classics, in part was responding to the desires of its audience.
Bay Street will also introduce a "Tuesday Talkback Series" in 2000. The program will allow subscribers to meet and chat with actors, directors, playwrights and designers involved in the theatre's productions.
The Bay Street Theatre in located in Sag Harbor, Long Island. For information call (631) 725-9500, or consult the website at www.baystreet.com.
--By Robert Simonson