"A Night With Janis Joplin," a bio-musical about this towering 1960s singer and the black musicians like Aretha Franklin who inspired her...So... they're trying to attract the aging Baby Boomers to something like that big show about The 4 Seasons ("Jersey Boys"), a show about a beloved pop star of the 1960s, but there's also this big racial theme, about all the black singers whose stellar efforts that beloved — and white!!! — singer appropriated. Is it nostalgia for Boomers, more racial lessons for white people, or something that could have benefited from outreach to black theatergoers.
Several actors in the Broadway run said they became worried that their producers lacked savvy, particularly about attracting audiences. One cast member, De’Adre Aziza, a Tony Award nominee for “Passing Strange,” said in an interview that she and others had urged the producers to reach out to black theatergoers by highlighting Ms. Franklin, Bessie Smith and other characters through television appearances and magazines like Ebony and Essence. These ideas mostly went nowhere, Ms. Aziza said. (The producers said in their statement that they had an “open-door policy” with the cast to hear their marketing ideas and hired a consultant with expertise in reaching black audiences.)
Would black people go to a Broadway show about a long-dead white female singer if only they knew that there are also some black characters, the singers who influenced that white singer? I'd asked what was supposed to be surreal, and the closest thing to surreal seems to be that you could sell a lot of tickets to black people this way. There's an Aretha Franklin character and a Bessie Smith character in a big musical about Janis Joplin. Why isn't the main character Aretha Franklin or Bessie Smith? The answer must be: There seemed to be more money in Janis Joplin.
Here's the review in The Hollywood Reporter:
[T]he show continues the transformation of Broadway into one giant industrial Baby Boomer karaoke machine....Ah, what does Randy Johnson know about a woman thang? And that's not Randy Johnson, "The Big Unit," who hit a bird that one time, and it looked a little something like this:
Actually, the title A Night With Janis Joplin is somewhat misleading. Joplin spends half the time ceding the spotlight to her inspirations... in a crowd-pleasing but ill-judged funk-gospel digression that threatens to hijack the show. There’s also an unnamed figure whose job is to hammer home that the blues is a woman thang, a message received in about a hundred minor permutations....
In the overwritten patter for Joplin that links the songs, [director-writer Randy] Johnson appears to be aiming to tap the collective spirit of oppressed womanhood thirsting for liberation across the decades....