Mary Bridget Davies Explains ‘A Night With Janis Joplin’

‘A Night With Janis Joplin’ is a musical that focuses on the music of Janis Joplin.

It stars Mary Bridget Davies.

Davies tells Ron Stutts that she discovered Joplin’s msuic through her parents.  “In our house, we had this great Macintosh sound system with a turntable that I was never allowed to touch.  They were always playing Howlin’ Wolf, Allman Brothers, and Janis,” Davies recalls.  “While I was listening to Mariah Carey and New Kids on the Block on the radio in my room, in the living room they were always playing their stuff.”

Everything changed for Davies when she became a teenager.  “My ears perked up and I was like ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, what is that?'”

Davies continues, “It was so authentic.  You could feel her pain,” referring to Joplin’s music.

Listen to Ron Stutt’s interview with Mary Bridget Davies.


“A Night With Janis Joplin” comes to DPAC on Thursday.

Listen to Davies’ take on ‘Piece of My Heart.’

“Ghost the Musical” Dazzles at DPAC

The 1990 film Ghost holds a unique place in popular culture. While it did win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (and a Supporting Actress statue for Whoopi Goldberg), it is remembered more in snapshots than for the story as a whole. Even if you’ve never seen the movie (like me), you know about two things – a sexy pottery wheel and “ditto.” And while I may not be fully informed on all of the details of the original story, Ghost has both the imagination and romance to make for an excellent musical.

If you read anything relating to Ghost the Musical, the biggest talking point will almost always be the special effects – and with good reason. Perhaps the biggest challenge in adapting the film to the stage is recreating the supernatural world, as the ghosts and spirits interact with the living and with each other. This is done through a wide range of effects, but the most prevalent is the use of projections on multiple screens on the stage. Creating the illusion of anything from rain to a moving subway car, the projections allow for a unique portrayal of several scenarios and environments.

Some of the more supernatural events are also created through some very interesting wire work. Particularly noteworthy is a scene on a subway car in which Sam (the Patrick Swayze character) confronts another ghost who uses his otherworldly abilities to seemingly alter gravity, as passengers and their belongings suddenly float over the stage in “slow motion.” These clever visuals do an excellent job of creating a clear distinction between the living characters and the ghosts around them.

Perhaps the highlight of the show was the character of Oda Mae Brown, originated in the film by Whoopi Goldberg. Infusing humor and life into the show, actress Carla R. Stewart was truly a scene stealer, with some of the liveliest musical numbers of the night.

While some of the heart of the beloved film seems to have been lost in the translation to the stage, Ghost the Musical proves to be an impressive feat in its use of visuals and innovation in a live performance. The dazzling lighting and production are arguably the most notable stars of the show, creating a truly unique on-stage world.

Ghost the Musical is currently playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center, with daily shows through Sunday, November 17th, including matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

“Sister Act” is in at DPAC

sister act dpac

The show ended to a standing ovation. On stage, there was a bedazzled church and more glitter than you’ll ever otherwise have the chance to see.

If you ask me, the amount of glitz alone was enough to make “Sister Act” at the Durham Performing Arts Center enjoyable. But if your love of gaudiness and disco-themed regalia is, God forbid, not as strong as mine, there are a few other reasons to check out this famously crowd-pleasing musical.

The play opened Tuesday evening, May 14th and will run through Sunday, the 19th with extra matinee shows on the weekend. Part of the Broadway series at D.P.A.C., the play was produced by Whoopi Goldberg, Stage Entertainment, and Troika Entertainment. Upon opening on Broadway in 2011, “Sister Act” received five Tony Award nominations including Best Original Score and Best Musical. The play is an adaptation of the 1992 film, which features Whoopi Goldberg as a disco-loving singer turned singing nun.

The indulgently upbeat, catchy score is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the play. “Sister Act” features music by the eminent, multi-Academy, Grammy and Golden Globe-winning composer Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, Enchanted, Little Mermaid).

Drawing on Disco and Motown sounds, the songs kept me entertained and the musical’s pace flowing.

sister act dpac

Ta’Rea Campbell plays Deloris, the singer who wants more than anything to ‘make it’ and be ‘fabulous.’ She witnesses her lover (a shady, cruel mobster) murder one of his henchmen and is consequently forced into hiding. In need of an unlikely new identity and safe haven, she winds up in a convent—where she inspires her largely tone-deaf, timid sisters to sing with passion, skill, and heart.

The shows’ main players have astounding voices, and it is a joy simply to appreciate their talent. Campbell is very well cast as Deloris, and her voice carries the play—providing the energy and emotion that keeps it afloat.

Florrie Bagel plays Mary Patrick—a young postulate who, with the encouragement of Deloris, finds her voice and gains a hunger for self-discovery. Bagel’s performance, like Campbell’s, is winning and lively. Her voice is also extremely strong, and the spirit that underlies her transformation is infectious.

Mother Superior’s piety provides a fairly effective foil to Deloris’s disco-loving, sacrilegious ways. As the play progresses, however, it becomes clear that the joy, connectivity, and humanism of the song-and-dance-oriented, disco world is not so different from the divinity, joy, and unity that Mother Superior hopes her convent fosters.

The outside world, in all of its messy, profane glory, is brought into the walls of the church and convent. And, to Mother Superior’s surprise, this intrusion is not disastrous. In fact, the combination somehow works—producing something both unhallowed and divine.

There are some corny and fairly stale jokes littered throughout that the play probably could have done without. At times I had a hard time embracing the campiness and, instead, wished for a higher level of sophistication—with regard to the comedy and character development.

The play is very formulaic and doesn’t challenge, subvert or complicate expectations. This can become a bit tiresome.

But, then again, “Sister Act” isn’t aiming for something complicated. And it delivers on the levels at which it plays. If you go, go for the singing—go for the glitter—and go for the joy.

‘Priscilla’ Fuels Fun at DPAC


With all the glitz and glamour you’d expect out of a Tony Award-winning musical, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert rolls into DPAC this week to wow you with its classic pop songs and fantastically flamboyant costumes. It’s bold, brash, and beautiful, and it’ll tug your heartstrings as much as it’ll make you stand up and sing along at the end.

The story begins with Tick (Wade McCollum), a drag queen and performer in Sydney, Australia, as he receives a phone call from his wife Marion, with whom he is amicably separated due to his homosexuality. In desperate need of an act to perform at her casino in Alice Springs — the dead center of the Australian Outback — she convinces Tick to get his group back together by informing him that his young son wants to finally meet him after 8 long years. Tick assembles an act with his transsexual friend Bernadette (Scott Willis) and his utter show-off of a pal Felicia (Bryan West), and the three decide to drive a beat-up old bus, Priscilla, through the desert. What follows is a fabulous tale of friendship and family as the trio travels and traipses through the empty roads to discover intolerance, acceptance, and, ultimately, Alice Springs.

The actors certainly shine in their respective roles, each delivering zippy and hilarious one-liners with ease. McCollum deftly plays Tick with equal parts extravagance and compunction. He will joyously overwhelm you — as will the dancing cupcakes — in his rendition of “Macarthur Park” and he will bring you to quiet tears in “Always On My Mind.” West, however, steals every scene he’s in. His relentless energy and incessant cheeriness will keep your sides in stitches. His battles of wit with Bernadette supply most of the show’s humor, and his unending stream of dirty, snide jokes inevitably create a purer, deeper friendship between the trio.

In terms of the show’s strong suits, the costumes and sets deserve a major mention as well. During the show, you’ll see a bizarre mix of dancing funeral dresses (complete with crosses for hats), giant pink paint brushes, big green cupcakes, and an assortment of flowers, insects, and ostriches. The eponymous bus, Priscilla, is built with little lights inside its hull, showering the stage in color and patterns after an uplifting version of “Colour My World.” It’s quite the spectacle for such a simple piece of set decoration and truly contributes to the show’s greater sense of heartfelt gaudiness.

While I certainly loved seeing Priscilla, and while I think its message of tolerance and acceptance needs to be heard by all, I am obligated to say that the show is probably not recommended for all audiences. DPAC provides a content advisory for “explicit language, sexual innuendo and an attempted hate crime,” which I endorse as well. I found the scandalous scenarios involving skimpy frocks and ping-pong balls to be both funny and entertaining, but some parents may find the same material unsuitable for children. Please use your discretion.

Be sure to catch Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and the songs “I Will Survive” and “It’s Raining Men” at DPAC this week. The show runs here until May 5th. Visit the DPAC website here for tickets and information.