Based on anecdotal evidence gathered on opening night of One Night with Janis Joplin, I've concluded there's a point in the life of every rich white person (it was a limited sample) when the simulacrum of a rock concert becomes more appealing than an actual rock concert. One Night with Janis Joplin is essentially three hours with a Janis Joplin impersonator. And as Fake Janis (Cat Stephani) belted out the hits, the audience at the Armory responded with unchecked enthusiasm.
Stephani's performance is undeniably impressive; her vocal mimicry is uncanny, and she's mastered Joplin's distinctive hippie patter. Alongside its 20-plus musical numbers, the show incorporates Joplin's biography and influences into her between-song banter, giving the show a vague narrative shape.
The "influences" portion, though, is problematic: Artists like Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, and Odetta are all represented by the same performer (the terrific Sabrina Elayne Carten), credited in the program as "The Blues Singer." Joplin is of no greater historical interest than the blues and soul singers she counted as influences; casting one black actress to stand in for so many brilliant performers is insensitive at best.
As I was grouchily overthinking One Night's Vegas sideshow spectacle, multiple mid-show standing ovations and a lot of cheering all gave testament to how much fun the rest of the crowd was having. Yes, I would rather have been at the Doug Fir, listening to music that's actually relevant to my generation. But hey—my mom had a great time.