A trailblazer and a woman before her time mixed with an incredible, soulful voice is how one would describe Janis Joplin.
Chris Keeble, creative director at Fish Out A Water Productions has taken her own love for Janis and created ‘Pearl: The Janis Joplin Story’. “I'm a bit of an old hippy myself,” Chris says.
“I'm right on the end of the baby boomers, so I grew up a fan of Bob Dylan. Janis just stood out as this crazy, trailblazing female. I decided that I was going to do something that no one has really done before.
"I started researching into her life and it was fascinating. When I first wrote [the production] I had about five hours of material, so I decided to cut out all the Wikipedia-like stuff and focus on her great songs, great musicians and her personal story. We are now in our third year and it's just fantastic.”
While Janis' story maybe close to 50-years old, Chris has created a show that highlights Janis' music and relatable struggles, which Chris says helps people to discover Janis once more. “Janis is the mother of psych rock and vintage.
"It's just so timely now that Gen Y's are rediscovering that style as well as Janis and her music. Janis can sit between three generations which is special. The personal troubles of bullying, body image and self-esteem issues that she went through are really relatable to young people. "Although parts are sad, she was not one to dwell. She comes across as a strong, trailblazing woman that was very important.
“The story is told in chronological order, but the music couldn't be done like that because as she got older the music improved. When creating the show I picked all the songs I thought people wanted to hear as well as songs that summed up sections of the story. We have a pre-recording that basically tells people to really listen to the lyrics because the songs really support the stories.”
Picking the right singers to portray Janis was no easy task. “I’ve been very lucky with our singers. Doing two hours of Janis is very difficult. Even Janis would have to take breaks during long performances.
"We have Liza Ohlback who is an amazing blues singers, her range is incredible. We also have Belle Hendrik who looks and sounds just like Janis. They were both natural choices. We aren't pretending to be Janis; we are paying homage to her and her music."
Those thinking this is just another tribute show need to re-think, as Chris explains. “Getting across the idea that it is not a tribute show has 100 per cent been the biggest struggle.
"It is a show that needs a theatre where people can watch, listen and absorb. It really isn’t just about the music, although all her hits are in there, it’s about her life, it’s a performance and even a bit of art and theatre.
“It’s a chance for people to see a show with the music they enjoy while learning a lot more about her. I love hearing people tell me that they thought they knew a lot about Janis and now they have learnt a lot more. I want people to go home and Google her. This show really gives another view point on how she really shaped music and culture.”Pearl: The Janis Joplin Story takes place at Redland Performing Arts Centre (Brisbane) 18 February.