Kaleigh Baker and Jeff Nolan in "Janis Joplin, Little Girl Blue" at the 2015 Orlando Fringe
"Little Girl Blue
" may be the title track of this rocking staged account of Janis Joplin's life that revolves fittingly around what's essentially a very disciplined Janis Joplin tribute show, but it was Big Brother & the Holding Company's "Turtle Blues" that perhaps stole the show. When the Fringe version of Joplin, embodied by unreal local vocalist Kaleigh Baker, got into her groove mid-song, the only bumps the show encountered were the ones rising on the arms of those in the audience.
I don't say this lightly, but Baker was at times hauntingly spell-binding, most notably her eye-widening rendition of "Ball and Chain." So while the Janis gimmicks – that laugh, those glasses, that wardrobe – keep it campy, it would be criminal to ignore the genuine soul that Baker revives in her eerie mimicry of vocal cracks and impassioned delivery that could leave a lesser singer tongue-tied.
The slim scenes that surround the concert within the play were penned by local musician and welcome theater scene invader Andy Matchett, who also directed and co-stars as talk show host Dick Cavett, after a period of dedicated research to nuance the dialogue. As we time-warp along, we listen as Joplin's sister (played by Amanda Warren, who sells pained jealousy admirably) struggles to tell Janis' story, Cavett interviews Janis between live performances on his show and the band (a ridiculous cast at times eight members deep, drawn from Orlando's most seriously skilled musicians) rocks classics like "Piece of My Heart."
Opening night had some typical hiccups – somebody wake up the spotlight operator – but none of that delayed the instant standing ovation from an appreciative crowd who left charmed by Baker's Joplin, who gave us nearly everything that a woman possibly can.
JANIS JOPLIN, LITTLE GIRL BLUE
Length: 60 minutes
Rating: 18 and up