Almost a year ago, I saw a new musical, or, to be more accurate, a one woman show, about Janis Joplin, written by and starring Collette Cooper, possessor of a simply superb voice. I wrote then that that Tomorrow May Be My Last took my breath away and when I saw it again last week, the magic had not diminished one bit.
The show is set against the backdrop of a US music festival in the height of the Summer of Love, a key moment in Janis Joplin’s life. Through the songs we see Janis’ electric stage presence interspersed with the story of her life, superbly accompanied by musicians Jack Parry, Jan Simson and Daniel Malek of TSP. Collette as Janis is alone on stage for most of the ninety minutes and holds the audience of the intimate venue in the palm of her hand from start to finish. From the moment Janis fails to enter onto the stage as expected, to the moment the show ends, the audience is electrified. The pathos of Janis’ short life and even shorter period of intense fame, is brought home within the first few minutes; her life is stripped bare and even though the audience know what is coming, it’s still shocking to see the downward spiral of such a talented young woman.
Janis’ songs are brought to life by the amazing performance of Collette Cooper – she embodies Janis’ frailty, bravado, performance style and above all, the voice to perfection. She IS Janis Joplin. The longer the show goes on, the longer the intervals between songs and the inevitable march towards destruction, however, the strength of the show and the performance mean that we remain hopeful that this particular story will have a happy ending. We know what will happen but we’re swept up in the moment and the announcement of Janis’s death at the end of the joyous rendition of ‘Take a Little Piece of My Heart’ is truly shocking. Until this point, the audience has been singing and dancing along, becoming the festival goers until reality, in the form of various news reel announcements from around the world, intrudes. Luckily the joy returns for the encore and curtain call.
As a one woman show, Tomorrow May Be My Last, featuring a superb original song of that name, is fabulous. As a musical play, it’s even better. Get down to the Old Red Lion Theatre before June 11 and see for yourself.