Janis Joplin needs a script, but The Winslow Boy and Fun Home are sensational!
A Night With Janis Joplin (2 ½ stars)
The Winslow Boy (5 stars)
Fun Home (5 stars)
Whatever they’re paying Mary Bridget Davies to sing the role of Janis Joplin at the Lyceum, it’s not enough. Davies, who looks nothing like Joplin but sounds so much like her that it’s soul-rattling, is a vocal force of nature in A Night With Janis Joplin, a sloppy show with no other redeeming value than the superlative singing of its cast. In addition to Davies (did I mention she’s amazing?), there are four fierce African-American women (Taprena Michelle Augustine, De’Adre Aziza, Allison Blackwell and Kikki Kimbrough) who portray various musical influences in Joplin’s life such as Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Odetta, Etta James and Aretha Franklin. It’s not a bad idea, but like everything else in A Night With Janis Joplin, it’s poorly executed. When these gifted ladies are singing …Joplin can be thrilling. But even the best singers need a script!
As for the Roundabout’s sterling revival of Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy, you’ll have to look far and wide to see a better, more sumptuously perfect, production. Based on his recent staging at The Old Vic, director Lindsay Posner has assembled a spectacular cast who understand thoroughly what they are playing. As patriarch Arthur Winslow who almost destroys his family in his quest to defend his young son’s besmirched honor, Roger Rees has never been better or more affecting. Similarly, the sister who supports him, Catherine, and the barrister who defends him, Sir Robert Morton, are superbly played by Charlotte Parry and the sinfully handsome Alessandro Nivola. Beautifully designed, subtly directed and wonderfully acted, this rare chance to see The Winslow Boy, a timeless piece about honor and justice, is not to be missed.
Sell your furniture in the street if you must, but get a ticket to Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s Fun Home at The Public. This deeply affecting, utterly surprising, and superbly produced new musical may be one of the most artistically satisfying productions of the past fifteen years. Based on lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s critically acclaimed, graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, and directed with unbridled creativity by Sam Gold, Fun Home pulls off the amazing feat of telling a deeply personal story of reflection and introspection through music which magnifies and enhances it. Filled with memorable songs and even more memorable characters, Bechdel’s poignant story has been given a dream of a production that will resonate with everyone.
A Night With Janis Joplin plays at the Lyceum (149 W 45th St, ANightWithJanisJoplin.com). The Winslow Boy plays through December 1 at the Roundabout (227 W 42nd St, RoundaboutTheatre.org). Fun Home plays through November 17 at The Public (425 Lafayette St, PublicTheater.org).