Mary Bridget Davies nabbed the lead role in a 2005 touring production of the Janis Joplin musical Love, Janis—and that would eventually help lead her to Broadway, and a 2014 Tony Award nomination when she once again played Joplin in A Night With Janis Joplin.
She has also toured Europe with Janis Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. While it’s possible some Joplin music will make its way into the show, expect to hear hits from the ’80s when she joins her high school friend Ryan Sudick for Shady in the 80’s at the Copa on Saturday, July 6.
During a recent phone interview, the Cleveland native said she still lives in the area—specifically in the hip neighborhood known as Lakewood.
“Everybody has to live in Lakewood; I think it’s right of passage,” Davies said. “As a rule, everyone in the Cleveland area in their early 20s has to live there. When I was on Broadway, people would ask me, ‘Oh, you’re from Cleveland?’ I’m a ‘west sider,’ which is rare. It was either Lakewood or the east side of Cleveland.”
Davies’ parents introduced her to Joplin’s music. She explained how she learned she was able to sing like the legendary singer, who died in 1970 at the age of 27.
“It was surreal,” Davies said. “It was my parents’ music, so it was on by default throughout my entire childhood. I dressed up as Janis Joplin for Halloween … and everyone thought I was Elton John. It was the ’90s, and no one really knew (who she was). People were seriously like, ‘What is this? Is this like Elton John?’ and I was like, ‘No! It’s Janis Joplin, man!’ … Ugh! I felt so stupid. … It’s not my actual singing voice; my actual singing voice is much smoother, but I can get that gravel and huskiness in my voice. I remember singing along to it with my mom. What an odd gift to have. I never thought I’d use that in my life—and it got me to Broadway. It’s pretty amazing.”
A Night With Janis is Davies’ only Broadway show to date—but Davies said she hopes that changes soon.
“I grew up theatrically trained, a competitive dancer, and on the whole American Idol track of ‘WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE IN SHOWBIZ!’” she said. “I knew I was going to Broadway, because I was an arrogant 15-year-old who thought I knew everything at that age. … A Night With Janis Joplin is my only Broadway credit so far, but I’m digging in. I was just in New York doing some business meetings, because we’re going to tour the show again, but I love it on Broadway, and I would die to be in a different show, expand and show off these other gifts.”
Davies said touring with Joplin’s old band was a surreal experience.
“I was 26 years old and playing with Big Brother and the Holding Company at the New Morning club in Paris and going to the top of the Eiffel Tower the next day. I couldn’t have been luckier,” she said. “I’m very grateful for these opportunities, and there is no way I would have gotten to do them on my own. I had my own band, and still do this to day. But I got to see a lot of life and culture because of them and because of Janis. So I lucked out.”
Given all of her Janis Joplin cred … why is she doing an ’80s show in Palm Springs?
“It’s my childhood soundtrack. It’s nostalgic, but it’s still so good,” she said. “It’s very good material, and we’ve played it before. Ryan (Sudick) just moved out there a few years ago, and this is like our memories growing up as kids. Everyone wants to see something come back. Everything comes around again every 25 to 30 years.
“It’s just a good time. When we do our shows, it’s not, ‘Hey, look how good we are!’ It’s, ‘Hey, how good are you feeling?’ I want to make everyone happy. We don’t just do carbon-copy versions of the songs; we put our own little spin on them. We demo-ed a little bit of it at a private house party in Palm Springs back in January, and everyone ate it up. We thought we should share it with everyone, so that’s what we’re doing.”
The heat during the post-Fourth of July weekend doesn’t worry her at all, Davies said.
“For everyone who doesn’t leave for Fourth of July weekend: What are you doing on Saturday night? Come to the Copa! Eat at Tropicale, and then come on over.”
Mary Bridget Davies and Ryan Sudick will perform Shady in the 80’s at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 6, at the Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $15 to $35. For more information, call 760-866-0021, or visit the event page on Facebook.