'Heart,' 'McGee' songs to be featured in prod'n

Several producers of the long-running “Naked Boys Singing!” are reteaming to bring a musical bio of Janis Joplin to Off Broadway.

“Love, Janis” will open April 22 at the Village Theater, formerly the Village Gate, and is based on the 1992 bio by Laura Joplin, the late rocker’s sister.

Nineteen songs, from “Piece of My Heart” to “Me and Bobby McGee,” will be featured in a production conceived, adapted and directed by Randal Myler.

Increasingly in the legit world, producers outnumber cast members. In the case of “Love, Janis,” it’s four-to-one, with three thesps onstage and 12 producers attached.

Colorful kickstart

In an exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented, move for an Off Broadway venture, the team of 12 will announce the show in Sunday’s New York Times with a full-page color ad, the cost of which can run upward of $75,000.

“Why not go out there and build an advance?” said lead producer Jennifer Dumas. “You make that impression and stand up there with the bigger shows. We feel secure, and the show has done very well in its previous productions.”

Dumas put the capitalization of the production at $759,000. She is producing with Jack Cullen, Patricia Watt and Jeff Rosen. Co-producers are Cindy and Jay Gutterman, with associate producers Jennifer Taylor, Madelyn Bell Ewing, Jamie Cesa, Carl D. White, Tom Smedes and Robert Schreiber.

As for securing the rights to the show’s 19 songs, Joplin said, “By and large the publishers have been very supportive. The show presents a new use of their material.”

The musical casts three actresses as the singer, who died in 1970. Catherine Curtin plays the speaking role of the private woman, while Cathy Richardson and Andra Mitrovich alternately play the singing role of the public performer. Seth Jones has been cast as an offstage interviewer.

The show’s production design is by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer.

Denver nugget

“Love, Janis” originated at the Denver Center Theater Co. in 1994. More recently, a much revised version has played at the Cleveland Playhouse, the Royal George in Chicago and the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, N.Y.

Joplin met with Myler in 1992.

“I had read his play ‘Lost Highway,’ about Hank Williams, and was impressed with his ability to present the whole range of the person,” said Joplin, who had been disappointed with various TV and film treatments of her sister’s life.

In 1999, producer-director Joel L. Freedman and his Cinnamon Prods. announced a biopic, to star Laura Theodore. That joined two other companies with films in development for more than five years: Paramount-based Lakeshore Entertainment and N.Y.-based Redeemable Features.

Hugh Hayes joined Cesa, White, Smedes and Dumas to produce “Naked Boys Singing!,” which opened Sept. 22, 1999, and continues in its run at the Actors’ Playhouse in Greenwich Village.

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