Like a comet that burns far too brightly to last, Janis Joplin exploded onto the music scene in 1967 and, almost overnight, became the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The unmistakable voice, filled with raw emotion and tinged with Southern Comfort, made her a must-see headliner from Monterey to Woodstock.
Stepping in as the Queen herself is Kacee Clanton. Clanton is no stranger to the role of Janis — she played Janis in A Night With Janis Joplin on Broadway and at the Pasadena Playhouse, as well as playing Janis in Love, Janis at San Diego Repertory, Kansas City Repertory and Downstairs Cabaret Theatre. Clanton has also toured as a vocalist with Joe Cocker, Luis Miguel, Big Brother & the Holding Co. Clanton can be heard on a number of film and television soundtracks, including The Tooth Fairy, Kinsey, Brothers and Sisters, Fox Sports, Cribs, Open House New York, 18 to Life, The Guiding Light, Star Search, and Thirty Something.
Kristin Piacentile will be playing Janis at alternate performances, and is also a Joplinaire understudy. (Back story: Janis loved the Jordanaires, and was planning on adding what she called Joplinaires as background vocals for her next album before her passing.) This is Piacentile’s first time on The 5th Avenue stage. Some of her regional credits include The Wedding Singer (Holly), Urinetown writer’s new musical ZM: A Zombie Musical (Eugene O’Neill Theatre), Two Gentlemen of Verona (Silvia), Jeff Marx’s new musical Home Street Home (Eugene O’Neill Theatre and Z Space, San Francisco), Sweet Charity (Charity), Big River, Lost in Love: The Air Supply Musical (World Premiere), and All’s Well that Ends Well (Helena).
Although A Night With Janis Joplin gives us a glimpse into Joplin’s life, it is also a musical journey celebrating Janis’s biggest musical influences–women like the Chantels, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simone and Bessie Smith.
Yvette Cason plays two of the ladies who inspired Janis, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, in addition to her roles as a Joplinaire and a Chantel. Cason is reprising her role in A Night With Janis Joplin, which she originally played while the show was at the Pasadena Playhouse. Cason has toured with Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, David Foster and Babyface. Her other stage credits include Ella the Musical, Dreamgirls, Play On!, Once On This Island, Ain’t Misbehavin’, St. Louis Woman, Into the Woods and Sisterella. Cason has also appeared on screen in both Dreamgirls and Middle of Nowhere.
In the show, Aretha and Janis sing a duet together, as they once did in real life. Janis also talks about how she was inspired by Nina Simone. Simone was a chart-topping jazz and blues singer who was also a political rights activist. Read more about Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone below.
Sylvia MacCalla is also representing two of Janis’s big influences (as well as her roles as a Joplinaire and a Chantel): Bessie Smith and Odetta. Like Cason, MacCalla previously performed in A Night With Janis Joplin at the Pasadena Playhouse. MacCalla has appeared in Broadway hits RENT as Joanne and Hairspray as Motormouth Maybelle/Lorraine in the 1st National tours. Other credits include They’re Playing Our Song starring Stephanie J. Block and Jason Alexander, South Pacific starring Reba McIntyre and Brian Stokes Mitchell, Ray Charles Live and Beehive. MacCalla has also been seen on television, in The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Wayne Brady Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as a back-up singer for various artists.
Bessie Smith was known as the “Empress of Blues,” and is considered one of the greatest blues singers of her era, so it’s no wonder that Janis was inspired by her as an artist. In the show, Janis talks about how listening to Bessie’s music flipped a switch in her brain. Janis loved her music so much that she helped to pay for a tombstone for Smith, who had been buried in an unmarked grave following her death in a car crash. Like other folk singers of the time, Janis’ first exposure to folk and gospel singing was Odetta. Read more about Bessie and Odetta below.
Nova Payton is playing a Joplinaire and the role of Blues Singer. This is Payton’s debut at The 5th! Payton is based out of D.C. Her D.C. area credits include Diner, Elmer Gantry, Crossing, Defying Gravity: Making of a SuperNOVA, Dreamgirls, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Xanadu, Hairspray (Signature Theatre); A Year with Frog and Toad (Imagination Stage); Freedom’s Song (Ford’s Theatre); Godspell (Olney Theatre Center); Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Washington Savoyards); Happy Elf (Adventure Theatre); and Kiss Me, Kate (Shakespeare Theatre). Payton has also been seen regionally in Dreamgirls at both Milwaukee Rep and Prince Music Theatre. She has toured nationallly with 3 Mo’ Divas and Smokey Joe’s Cafe.
Although not a particular historical figure, the Blues Singer steps in to go through the influence of blues on Janis’ music, and to serve as the every day woman. As Janis says, “No one feels the blues like an every day woman.”
Aurianna Tuttle is portraying the great Etta James, as well as a Joplinaire and a Chantel. Tuttle is a Southern California native and new to the Seattle theatre scene. She’s been seen Off Broadway in Sistas the Musical, and regionally in Dreamgirls, RENT, Hairspray, Rumors and Dreams, South Pacific, Show Boat and others.
Etta James is one of the most recognizable names in blues, with hits like “At Last.” In the show, the two ladies sing James’ song “Tell Mama” together, as Janis talks about the influence that James had on her music.
You won’t want to miss this fantastic Broadway musical filled with Janis Joplin favorites, as well as hits from Odetta, Nina Simone, Etta James, Bessie Smith, and Aretha Franklin. Click here to find out more about the cast and to buy tickets.
Biographical information compiled by KWAPI VENGESAYI, Community Engagement Specialist
Graphics by KEVIN HARRIS, Graphic Designer