Mary Bridget Davies, who won a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Janis Joplin on Broadway in 2013, has been “preparing for this role all my life,” Davies tells anyone who asks. The raspy-voiced singer has stunned audiences across the country with her uncanny resemblance to the powerhouse singer, not just in voice but in appearance and manner. While there may be a little secret sauce to her dead-on performance as Joplin – she’s distantly related to the rock and roll icon on her maternal grandmother’s side – most people who know Davies will tell you that there’s a whole lot more work and practice in the mix than the luck of birth.
It Was in the Stars
Davies grew up in a family surrounded by music, and started her own band, The Mary Bridget Davies Group, to play bars and venues in her native Cleveland. It was there that she caught the eye – and ear – of Sam Andrew, who founded the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Janis Joplin’s first big successes came when she sang with Big Brother and the Holding Company back in 1967. Andrew invited Davies to sit in with the band on an international tour, and remembered her later when he was casting the national tour for another Joplin show, “Love, Janis.” Davies won the lead in “Love, Janis,” for which Andrew was the musical director.
That was in 2005. Fast forward to 2011. Randy Johnson, writer and director of “A Night with Janis Joplin,” had mounted a regional tour of his production, starring singer Cat Stephani, with Davies as her understudy. In a story that seems pulled out of a Hollywood movie, Stephani backed out of the production during the show’s final preview, saying that she didn’t feel she had the full vocal range to do Joplin justice. With a day’s notice – and no rehearsal – Davies stepped into the role for opening night and gave it her all.
Davies Didn’t Recognized Her Own Talent
According to the show’s now legendary lore, Davies figured the performance was a one-shot deal that would last just until they cast another singer in the lead. However, Janis Joplin’s brother Michael was in the audience that night. When Davies stepped up and belted out the Joplin standard, “Ball and Chain,” he decided that only she would do to portray his sister in the regional tour of “A Night with Janis Joplin.”
Davies played Janis Joplin on stages across the country for the next two years. When producers Scott Gershwin and Daniel Chilewich decided to bring the show to Broadway, Mary Bridget Davies was the natural choice for the title role. With years of practice under her belt – not to mention that little bit of secret sauce on her grandmother’s side of her heritage – Davies brought down the house night after night with her rendition of Joplin classics like “Cry Baby,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” and “Summertime.”
A Night With Janis Joplin—the Revival
Now, just two years after the production closed on Broadway – and decided against an off-Broadway run – Davies is back in the role she was born to play, bringing Janis Joplin to stages across the United States and Canada. If you missed her during the show’s all-too-short run on Broadway, this is the perfect opportunity to grab “A Night with Janis Joplin” tickets and settle in for a night with… Janis Joplin.
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