A Minute With: singer Mary Bridget Davies on channeling Janis Joplin

Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:35am EDT
 
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cleveland-born blues singer Mary Bridget Davies had no idea when she auditioned for a part in "A Night With Janis Joplin" that a year later she would be playing the wailing, raspy voiced rock'n'roll legend on Broadway.

But a stroke of luck and a talent for transforming herself into the singer/songwriter, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 in 1970, sealed the deal.

"I was asked at the last minute during previews, 'Oh my gosh, can you go on?' And I said, 'sure.' It was like a kiss on the forehead and a push on stage, and I secured the lead," Davies said in an interview.

With her wild hair, bell-bottoms, bangles and rich, guttural voice, Davies captures the 1960s rock star right down to her Texas twang. She won rave reviews during regional runs before the show's Broadway preview on September 20.

"This concert-as-theater achieves the exhilarating effect it desires. It's a portrait, more than anything else, of a romance: a singer in love with the cleansing embrace of the crowd," the Washington Post review read.

Davies, 34, spoke to Reuters about the responsibility of portraying Joplin on stage and why she felt the need to show the vulnerability of the explosive, brazen singer.

Q: How did you prepare for the role?

A: I read a lot about her. I've listened to her music and I've actually toured with Big Brother (Joplin's band, Big Brother & the Holding Company) so I've spoken to her friends and the people who actually knew her. Again and again, you would get this feeling that a lot of love surrounded her and how hysterically funny and brilliantly talented she was.   Continued...

 
Blues singer Mary Bridget Davies performs as the singer Janis Joplin in the show "A Night With Janis Joplin" at the Pasadena Playhouse, California in this March 2013 handout photo. Cleveland-born blues singer Davies had no idea when she auditioned for a part in "A Night With Janis Joplin" that a year later she would be playing the wailing, raspy voiced rock'n'roll legend on Broadway. REUTERS/Jim Cox/Handout via Reuters