Home » London Theatre Reviews » Tomorrow May Be My Last at the Union Theatre | Review

Tomorrow May Be My Last at the Union Theatre | Review

As you enter the auditorium at the Union Theatre, the stage is set with musical instruments, suitcases, a large velvet couch, a clothes rail with tie-died tops and two ‘hippie chicks’ are quietly singing songs from the sixties such as ‘Blowing In The Wind an’ ‘Are You Going To San Francisco’ – all that’s missing is some burning incense. Then the two girls and a very tall man in a kaftan and sporting a large afro, start screaming “Janis, Janis” with the help of a pre-recorded crowd coming out of the speakers. They are crying out for the singer Janis Joplin who soon arrives in the shape of Collette Cooper and she launches into one of Joplin’s songs accompanied by a three-piece rock band.

Collette Cooper - Tomorrow May Be My Last.
Collette Cooper – Tomorrow May Be My Last.

Cooper then proceeds to tell Janis’s story as she leaves her unhappy life in the small Texan town of Port Arthur where she’s call fat and ugly eventually ending up in San Francisco where she finds fame and fortune as well as drink and drugs. Interspersed with the story are most of Janis’s hit songs such as ‘Ball And Chain’, ‘Mercedes Benz’, ‘Me and Bobby McGhee’ and her best-known song Piece Of My Heart all of which Cooper sings superbly – at times if you closed your eyes, you could have been listening to Joplin herself.

The dilemma with Tomorrow May Be My Last is that it hasn’t decided whether it’s a drama with songs telling the story of Janis’s short and tumultuous life or it’s just a musical tribute act with some dialogue in between the songs. There’s an attempt to flesh it out from just being the latter with an odd moment when the three other performers arrive in black cloaks with hessian faces and dance around the audience. There may be some connection with the hessian bag that Janis has been clutching at times, but it’s never explained. There’s also a point where the three are dressed as ‘cops’ and arrest some members of the audience and send them to the back of the room – they’re allowed back to their seats as the ‘cops’ leave the stage.

There’s also audience participation, with some people being given ‘backstage passes’ and miniature bottles of Jack Daniels (Joplin’s drink of choice) and asked to singalong to ‘Tomorrow May Be My Last’ (a new song written by Cooper), shake the shakers under the audiences’ seats and wave a glowstick that’s also under their seats.

There’s no doubt that Cooper sings magnificently and perfectly embodies the singer. She even looks a little like her (well she has the hair) and the costumes are spot on although there may be a few too many costume changes. However, the show is let down by the words in between the songs. There’s just not enough drama to draw in the audience and at times the narrative seems to ramble and lacks clarity. Joplin had a short and troubled life, dying at 27 from a drugs overdose but we never really get to know her and even her very dramatic death is understated with the lights going out and various news announcements coming through the speakers.

However, whilst Tomorrow May Be My Last to use the vernacular of the sixties isn’t ‘my bag man’ and doesn’t really work as a piece of theatre, if you want to hear a superb performer singing some great songs of the sixties and you enjoy a bit of audience participation (avoid the front row if you don’t), then Tomorrow May Be My Last might be the show for you.

3 Star Review

Review by Alan Fitter

In an era of oppression, rebellion, evolution and enlightenment, this is the story of a small-town girl’s remarkable journey, from an adolescent outcast to a musical icon.

The true essence of the legendary 1960’s rock star Janis Joplin’s is captured and channelled by the critically-acclaimed, renowned singer-songwriter and actor Collette Cooper, in this one-woman story with a breath-taking live band, a talented supporting cast, and a whole host of surprises thrown in for good measure.

Set against the backdrop of a Woodstock-vibe music festival in the height of the Summer of Love, Tomorrow May Be My Last marks a key moment in Janis Joplin’s all too brief existence: Collette Cooper’s embodiment of the psychedelic rock idol is deep and complex, painted with dark humour and glimmers of hope that candidly reveal Joplin’s troubled genius.

Tomorrow May Be My Last
24th to 28th August 2021


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