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23 Jan 2014 - 28 May 2014

Janis Joplin fades as Carole King ascends on Broadway
January 22 at 12:16 pm
On Broadway, does Carole King trump Janis Joplin?
Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
Producers of “A Night With Janis Joplin” announced this week that the concert-style musical about hard-driving, hard-living rock legend will end its Broadway stay in February after a fairly well-received but somewhat-less-than-boffo run at the Lyceum Theatre. Although a precise end date has yet to be arranged, the show–which toured extensively prior to Broadway, including stopping twice at Arena Stage as “One Night with Janis Joplin”–will complete its residency with somewhere in the vicinity of 150 performances at the Lyceum. (The producers also described plans to find an off-Broadway house in the near future to resume the New York run.)
The announcement comes during the post-Christmas doldrums, the time of year traditionally considered the graveyard  for the weakest in the Broadway pack. It also occurs on the heels of the opening of “Beautiful,” another jukebox musical celebrating the music of a singer-songwriter whose rise was first charted in the ’60s: Carole King. Mary Bridget Davies received plaudits for her portrayal as Joplin; Jessie Mueller got similar huzzahs for her King, but the box office numbers look far stronger for “Beautiful,” which opened Jan. 12. It took in $850,000 at the 1,055-seat Stephen Sondheim Theatre last week, while “Joplin” grossed just $339,000 at the 950-seat Lyceum.
Granted, the receipts are often particularly robust at the publicity-fueled start of a promising production’s run. The early returns suggest, however, that there may be a larger fan base for the songbook of King–whose seminal melodies include “You’ve Got a Friend” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
The shuttering of “A Night with Janis Joplin” will clear the way for  playwright Will Eno’s “The Realistic Joneses,” a dark comedy starring Michael C. Hall, Marisa Tomei, Toni Collette and Tracy Letts, that begins preview performances March 13.
Peter Marks has been the Post's theater critic since joining the paper in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @petermarksdrama or on Facebook.
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