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A Night with Janis Joplin sets the Playhouse ablaze, with one standing ovation after another

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

One night wasn’t enough, let me say that right now. I’ll be going back.

Before Sunday evening, the closest I’d gotten to Janis Joplin was seeing the stage where she performed at The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

But on Sunday, it only took one look at the Laguna Playhouse stage to realize this was going to be a special night, a “happening,” as we used to call them. Yes, it involved the most lighting ever used at the Playhouse, but something else shone brighter…an aura, mysterious and mythical and drenched in nostalgia, that enveloped the audience throughout the evening.

This concert style revue was created, written and directed by Randy Johnson. It was brought to the Laguna Playhouse under the leadership of Executive Director Ellen Richard and Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham, and they are to be applauded for this dazzling choice.

Even though Kelly McIntyre looks and stunningly sounds like Joplin, it isn’t an impersonation or a re-creation, it’s as if Kelly channels Joplin’s raw emotion and pain in her electrifying performance. Her hair swinging, her voice raspy, the rendition of Piece of My Heart brought the audience to their feet. She punctuates her singing with dialogue about her childhood in Texas, occasionally sipping from a bottle of Southern Comfort.

The show also pays homage to Joplin’s musical influences. Masterfully interwoven in the revue are unforgettable performances by the singers who comprise the Joplinaires/Chantels; Sharon Catherine Brown as Blues Singer, Tawny Dolley as Etta James, Carol Hatchett as Odetta and Bessie Smith, and Amma Osei as Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone.

And eight blazing hot musicians create a formidable presence on stage; Todd Olson, Mark Chosak, Michael Praisler, Aiden Moore, Aaron O. Smith, Patrick Lenertz, David Catalan, and Shannon Ford.

The behind the scene people should also be commended: Scenic Designer, Brian Prather; Costume Designer, Amy Clark; Lighting Designer, Ryan O’Gara; Sound Designer, Rafe Carlotto, Production Stage Manager, Hethyr Verhoef, Associate Director, Grady McLeod Bowman; Music Director, Todd Olson; Original Music Arrangements, Len Rhodes; Operations Manager, Jim Prodger.

The brilliant performances by Kelly McIntyre and the other singers, the band, lighting, sets, the clothes, all blend together to cast a magic and musical spell on the audience.

If you’re lucky enough to experience A Night with Janis Joplin at Laguna Playhouse, do not, I repeat, do not take a pair of the earplugs from the container on the bar. You will want to hear every note. And every note will haunt you.