The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Entertainment & Events

October 10, 2013

Musicals featuring female singer-songwriters swell

NEW YORK — Mary Bridget Davies is part singer, part actress and part spirit conjurer.

The bubbly performer is uncanny at capturing the look and sound of the late Janis Joplin in a new Broadway show highlighting the iconic blues singer.

“I feel a responsibility to be as honest and authentic as possible,” says Davies, who has spent years singing Joplin songs in concert and onstage. “You can’t fake the funk. You can’t fake Janis.”

Davies and her “A Night With Janis Joplin,” which opens Thursday, are part of a new wave of musicals featuring female singer-songwriters, a list that includes a Carole King musical making its way to Broadway, a Billie Holiday show now off-Broadway and musicals planned on Diane Warren and Patsy Cline. It all might signal the theatrical equivalent of ladies’ night.

“I kind of feel like people are beginning to feel the need for nurturing figures and the feminine side of life,” says Dee Dee Bridgewater, the Grammy- and Tony-winning actress who plays Holiday in “Lady Day” at the Little Shubert Theatre.

Bridgewater channels the blues legend during a comeback attempt in the years before her 1959 death. The show features 25 Holiday standards, including “Good Morning Heartache,” ‘‘Strange Fruit,” ‘‘My Man” and “God Bless the Child.”

“This isn’t an imitation,” Bridgewater warns, though when the show was on in London years ago she would get fan letters addressed to Holiday. “I’d open it up and it would read, ‘Dear Billie, I sure enjoyed your show last night.’”

The new interest in female singers and songwriters may be a coincidence but it comes as a refreshing change from all the testosterone in behind-the-music shows such as “Million Dollar Quartet,” ‘‘Jersey Boys” and Berry Gordy’s “Motown, the Musical.”

On tap is “Always... Patsy Cline,” which tells of the friendship between Cline and a devoted fan. The show starring “American Idol” finalist Crystal Bowersox will feature almost 30 classic songs from the Cline songbook. The music of award-winning Warren, writer of hits such as “Unbreak My Heart” and “If I Could Turn Back Time,” is being adapted for the Broadway stage under the guidance of Dede Harris Productions.

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