You'd think that a bio musical called "Piece of My Heart" would be about Janis Joplin, who covered the song and is most often identified with it. (As it happens, a Janis Joplin tribute musical played Broadway last year and featured the song.)
Hardly anyone would immediately identify the song with Bert Berns, its co-writer. In fact, besides pop music aficionados, who really knows anything about Bert Berns?
Berns' children, apparently on a crusade to raise awareness about their dad or at least pump up the royalty checks, are behind this self-pitying, self-congratulatory, dramatically weak show that depicts Berns' coming-of-age and career success in the 1960s before succumbing to heart failure at just 38 years old.
This is all framed as a flashback, with Berns' daughter, a struggling singer-songwriter, being mysteriously summoned to New York by an old pal who wants to prevent Berns' wife from selling the rights to all the songs.
Along with the paper-thin characters and hokey structure comes a propaganda-like message that villainous business execs are to blame for us not knowing more about this guy.
In addition to "Piece of My Heart," which serves as a finale, the show features other songs by Berns that became pop hits that are still with us including "Twist and Shout," "I Want Candy" and "Hang on Sloopy."
With a stylish, efficient staging from director-choreographer Denis Jones and impressive sound design, "Piece of My Heart" looks and sounds a lot like the Carole King musical "Beautiful." Still, the sum of its ingredients makes it far inferior to "Beautiful."
Zak Resnick, who portrays Berns with genuine charisma and dashing looks, is definitely someone to look out for. Leslie Kritzer, who has tremendous comedic gifts, is wasted as Berns' daughter, who dutifully must observe the flashback from the rear of the stage.
If you go: “Piece of My Heart” runs through Aug. 31 at the Pershing Square Signature Center. 480 W. 42nd St., pieceofmyheartmusical.com.