San Jose Rep’s “Janis Joplin” Discovered On Facebook by Kevin M. Thomas

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Cari Hutson, who is taking over the lead role in San Jose’s “One Night With Janis Joplin,” actually got the part thanks to Facebook.

Not quite you’re typical “a-star-is-born” story and definitely not a way that Joplin herself could have been discovered, yet through an Austin, Texas Facebook page where artists refer, recommend and seek gigs. Hutson’s name came popping up as someone who could play Joplin when the Broadway-bound musical made a stop in Austin.

Cari Hutson

Cari Hutson

In fact, says, Hutson, “they already had all the appointments set up with other performers when she was brought into the picture.” But before they could turn her away, she mentioned the name of Ginger Lee, who recommended she try out for the part, and apparently Lee’s name carried enough weight to get Hutson into the role of Joplin. Hutson, who has her own band in Texas and really hadn’t acted before, was first the understudy, then the alternate performing 2-3 a week and now she will be the lead until the end of the show’s run Oct. 6 at San Jose Rep.

Since Joplin is a wailer and bringing true, raw emotion to every song, Hutson has had to discipline herself more than ever in the role. She spends more time carrying, protecting and resting her voice than she actually does performing on stage. “I’ve learned playing Joplin that your voice is truly an instrument and I really have to take care of it,” she says as she sips a little hot tea from her San Jose apartment. While playing the role, Hutson says she doesn’t talk as much or party at all as with every note Joplin sings, it was from her gut and Hutson wants to respect her artistry to give the role and Joplin the justice and respect they deserve.

She also researched a lot about the role so she can identify more with Joplin as a person and not just a performer. “I really liked discovering the backstory on Janis,” Hutson says, pointing out her family was also very musical, going as far as singing songs from “West Side Story” while cleaning the house. Additionally, she says, Joplin had an art degree and director Randy Johnson was able to get some of it to use in the show, which has never been seen by the public before.

Playing this part has definitely become a highlight in Hutson’s career and is a dream come true on many levels – “not just for playing Janis, but to express myself in a new and exciting way and to be able to find a new audience” that may have not heard her before.

While “One Night” is on its way to Broadway, opening Oct. 10 in New York. For now, when the show closes in San Jose, Hutson is heading back to Austin to play some music for her legion of fans who have missed her. But don’t count her out yet. The role of Joplin is quite draining on any performer and the longer it stays on Broadway, the more likely they may need to stockpile Janis. From the buzz around her performance, Hutson will likely be on the short list.

No need to wait. You can see her through Oct. 6 at San Jose’ Repertory Theatre. Get tickets and information at www.sanjoserep.com.

To learn about the Broadway production, go to www.anightwithjanisjoplin.com.