Michael and Laura Joplin Share Their Sister's Music with Broadway

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23 Sep 2013

Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin
Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin
Jim Cox

Playbill.com chats with the creators and star of the new Broadway musical A Night With Janis Joplin.

At the Joplin house, the kids looked forward to cleaning day. That was the day they got to sing.

"My mom would set it up to do house cleaning and we would do Broadway show tunes," recalled Michael Joplin, brother of the late rock and roll icon Janis Joplin. "It was a little bit weird. We were just singing loud."

"Our mother, in an earlier life, was a Broadway singer," said Laura Joplin, the third Joplin sibling. "We [had] those LPs around the home and listened to them a lot. On cleaning day, we'd put them on high."

"I really didn't understand how much it affected me until I went on a date with my wife to a 'West Side Story' sing-along," added Michael. "I knew every word. I thought, 'Oh my God.'"

To the Joplins' way of thinking, theatre music was just one of many musical influences that formed the distinctive vocal style of their celebrated sister, and each one of those wellsprings will be explored in the new Broadway biographical musical, A Night With Janis Joplin, opening Oct. 10 at the Lyceum Theatre.

"We've been talking about doing a theatrical production for a while" about Janis, said Laura. When they met Randy Johnson, A Night with Janis Joplin's director, who conceived of the project, the Joplins knew they had found the right project, one that wouldn't exploit the more lurid aspects of the life of their sister, who famously died of a drug overdose in 1970 at the age of 27.

"He had the idea [of] looking at how she interpreted the artists who influenced her into her own style," explained Laura. "It's appropriate that a woman has her work as the focus. So often stories about women get sidelined in favor of private details. To celebrate the talent and ability of a singer is a great compliment."

"We want people to remember why Janis became well known," echoed Michael.

Janis Joplin's musical upbringing began at home. Her mother provided one avenue of schooling, her father another.

"My father was a serious classical music listener," said Laura. "He'd bring us in to listen to certain passages." Michael recalled his father sitting quietly and intently in a corner, absorbing a piece of Rachmaninoff. "I remember thinking, 'Music can do that to you!' I think Janis got that just as much as I did."



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