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Fairview native in limelight channeling Janis Joplin

Mary Bridget Davies stars as Janis Joplin in the Cleveland Play House production of “One Night With Janis Joplin,” at the Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare through Sunday. (Photo credit: Janet Macoska)

By Kevin Kelley

Fairview Park

Mary Bridget Davies discovered that she wanted to perform on stage during high school.

Known as Bridget while attending Fairview High School, Davies not only participated in the school’s choir, but also was the first vocalist to perform with the jazz band. For three years, she was selected to be in the Southwest Conference honors choir.

Among the class of 1996’s senior quotes, Davies wrote that she hoped she’d miss the 10-year reunion due to being on tour. Her prophesy came true, she said, as 2006 saw her performing in San Francisco on the date of the reunion.

Davies seemed destined not only to be a music performer, but to recreate the sound and energy of Janis Joplin.

The 33-year-old currently stars in the lead of The Cleveland Play House’s “One Night With Janis Joplin,” playing through Aug. 19 at the Allen Theatre.

Davies said she and Joplin share some similarities in the early parts of their careers.

“There are a few weird parallels that we have that I didn’t know before I started performing as her,” she told West Life.

For one, both shared an early love of blues music.

After high school, Davies briefly attended Kent State University and Bowling Green State University but did terribly academically.

“I had no discipline,” she recalled.

Her desire to perform on stage was strong, though. After going on a dance tour, she studied acting and improvisation.

In 2002, she performed at a jam session at a downtown club. She soon hooked up with a band that was looking for a new singer. Her blues career was under way.

Three years later, Davies auditioned for the Off-Broadway musical, “Love, Janis,” and got the lead role as the iconic ’60s singer. She starred in the national tour of the show in 2008.

The musical stage show was based on a book by the singer’s sister. Laura Joplin’s writing gave Davies insights into Janis that she brings to her performances.

“She was a very caring, considerate person,” Davies said. Joplin was intelligent and had a sense of humor, she added.

“I think that she was brutally honest and open when she would perform,” Davies said of Joplin.

In 2010, Davies moves to Kansas City, where she formed the five-member Mary Bridget Davies Group and recorded a blues album entitled “Wanna Feel Somethin’.” The album is available for downloading on iTunes.

Davies auditioned for the current show in New York City, where her tryout was witnessed by Liza Minelli, a friend of “One Night With Janis Joplin” writer and director Randy Johnson.

Davies, in the lead role, shares the stage with Sabrina Elayne Carten, who as the blues singer charachter, performs as artists who influenced Joplin over the years.

During the two-hour show, Davies belts out 20 songs in the unique, soulful style of Joplin, who died of a heroin overdose in 1970 at the age of 27.

The connections between the two singers don’t end there. Davies has toured internationally with Joplin’s original band, Big Brother & the Holding Company.

Davies’ advice to promising singer/songwriters is, “Don’t throw anything out.” She notes that her best song on her album came from the fragments of three separate songs she had earlier given up on.

Now a Lakewood resident, Davies said being a performer on national tours can be hard.

“If you’re successful, it’s rough,” she said of being on the road. “But you get to go on stage and do what you love.”

 

 

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