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Smokey Joe's Cafe - The Songs of Lieber and Stoller
a Musical Revue
CATEGORY : COMEDY MUSICAL
by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller

COMPANY : Galaxy Music Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Relapse Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 1769

SHOWING : October 26, 2006 - November 18, 2006

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Leiber and Stoller, as much as anyone, virtually invented rock 'n' roll and now their songs provide the basis for an electrifying entertainment that illuminates a golden age of American culture. In an idealized '50's setting, the classic themes of love won, lost and imagined blend with hilarious set-pieces and slice-of-life emotions. Featuring nearly 40 of the greatest songs ever recorded, SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE isn't just great pop music - it's compelling musical theatre. Songs include: Kansas City, Fools Fall in Love, Poison Ivy, On Broadway, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Stand by Me, and many more.


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast S. Craig McConnell
Director Nat Martin
Choreographer Jeremy McShan
Musical Director L. Gerard Reid
Costume Design Clint Horne
Board Operator Brian Rudd
Set/Lighting Design John David Williams
Saxophonist Norm Ficke
Guitar Dan Gilormo
Percussionist L. Gerard Reid
Pianist Martie Carlson Rudd
Bass Justin Spengler
Ensemble Nik Alexander
Ensemble Tiffany Carter
Ensemble Clinton Dillard
Ensemble Boris Hunter
Ensemble Tawana Johnson
Ensemble Ardale Shepard
Ensemble Michael Simmons
Ensemble Caitlin Smith
Ensemble Michael Sullivan
Ensemble Althea Williams
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

It's "Cafe" not dancehall.
by Outsider
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
3.0
I saw this production of Smokey Joe’s over the weekend and had decided I wasn’t going to post a review on there. However, after reading the other reviews posted, I thought I would throw in my two cents.

First let me say that I thought the band sounded great and the set was really nice. However, it seems the director and choreographer fell into the same trap that many productions of this show do, and that is to over choreograph the show. First and foremost, this show is about the songs and the vocals. Let it stand on those merits. I saw the show on Broadway a couple of times and it was perfectly choreographed and staged…not too much, but just enough (the DVD is available, and though I know theater groups want to put their own mark on a show, why not take a look).

The movement was just too much and a number of moves were repetitious (and not quite in the style of the music). The one number I had the most trouble with was “Trouble”. Frankly, it bordered on being vulgar. A striptease/pole-dance it is not, yet that’s how it came across (there's a thin line between sass and crass). Though the small audience that was there were all adults, this is a family show, so they might want to be a little more careful. Another song that bothered me was “I’m A Woman”. Why was this song choreographed at all? These women needed the freedom to tell it like it is and just WAIL!

That being said, there were a couple of performances that I really enjoyed. Ardale Shepard is just a breath of fresh air in the show. She’s beautiful to look at and has a wonderful, lovely voice and good stage presence. Why they didn’t feature her more is beyond me. The other performance was that of Nik Alexander. This young man has talent with a capital T! A true triple threat. The only thing I would tell him is to be careful of overdoing it at times. Less is more.

One other performer to mention is Caitlin Smith. As mentioned in the other reviews, this girl does have a great set of pipes on her. However, I didn’t like the direction she went with in “Pearl’s A Singer”. She went a comical route and it just didn’t work for me. Perhaps it was not her choice, but the director’s. Also, I don’t quite understand why the director assigned her to sing “Jailhouse Rock”. Yes, the bit at the very beginning was somewhat amusing, but after that, the number lacked substance.

One thing they need to work on in that space is sound. Some type of microphone system needs to be used so you don’t have to strain to hear the singers. Case in point, the song “Saved”. I was sitting near the front row and could not hear the vocalist until the end when the song moved to her upper register.

I love this show and really wish I could highly recommend this production, but I just can’t. However, I must note that the crowd did give them a standing ovation, so obviously they enjoyed it.
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Over Choreographing is a common trap by MeisnerGuy
I haven't seen the Galaxy Production - I am going to soon - but I did catch the production put on a few years ago by then Neighborhood Playhouse. This show can be over-choreographed. I eagerly await to see what was done with this production...
Dekalb County wouldn't dare shut down this SMOKEY Joe's Cafe!
by Eye4Talent
Sunday, November 5, 2006
5.0
I was a little skeptical when I went to see Galaxy’s latest production, SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ, feeling that even though the show would probably be pretty good, there was no way it could compare to their last show, DREAMGIRLS. I should have had more faith, because they topped themselves! Nat Martin and Gerard Reid, as Director and Music Director, have assembled a troupe of some of the finest singers and dancers that have graced any professional stage, with production values to match.

First, let me say that the design team obviously paid attention to what did and didn’t work about the new space. The set worked much better this go round; the issues with the sparse room in the wings, among other challenges, have been adapted to and overcome. The huge space that must be lit is another difficulty that just wasn’t. The dark places in the last show didn’t appear in this one, and I didn’t notice that there was a whole lot more lighting equipment, so the answer must have been in the design. Kudos, JD!

The band sounded great. I had no doubt with Gerard as their leader. I have heard Gerard play almost every style that can be found in musical theatre, and he never fails to impress me. I think this is the first production I have seen where he served as the MD, and he did an outstanding job.

The costumes were perfectly suited to the style of the show. Often times, costumes can be a little distracting, taking on roles of their own, but Clint Horne managed to dress everyone with just enough flash to enhance their performances without any pretense. And he obviously understands the importance of functionality of clothing when an actor is dancing his/her butt off.

And dance their butts off they did. The choreography in this show was brilliant. Jeremy McShan doesn’t just put a bunch of steps and arms together to fill space and time, he truly understands the notes and the lyrics, and his choreography adds the visual element that brings the music to life.

As far as the individual performances go, I was impressed with every single one! The two happiest surprises were Tiffany Carter and Michael Sullivan. In DREAMGIRLS, I was a little disappointed in Tiffany’s voice because it just didn’t have the oomph I was looking for. Well, she just wasn’t given the right songs, because this time, she lights up the stage with a sexy, sultry presence and a voice to match. And as the only white guy, I was a little nervous for Michael, since his solos in THE OZ CHRONICLES were a little, pardon the pun, vanilla. But, again, he had the wrong songs last time, because he made me smile every time he was on the stage this time.

Another familiar face fresh from OZ is Tawana Johnson who had moments of gold in that one, and several more this time. Just her facial expressions as the gypsy were enough to make me a fan! And the DREAMGIRLS gang who all had smaller, albeit wonderful, moments, Althea Williams, Boris Hunter, and Ardale Sheppard, had more opportunity to shine in this show. And they did – glowed, glittered, sparkled and twinkled, too. I have to say, though, that Nik Alexander was the one that really blew me away. Not because he was so much better than anyone else, but because, at only 16 years old, he shouldn’t be able to compete with all that talent on that stage, but don’t anyone tell him that, because he obviously hasn’t gotten the memo. Wow!

Clinton Dillard and Caitlin Smith both have proven that they have amazing sets of pipes in the good-material-challenged VICTOR VICTORIA and in the director-challenged (and slightly cast mate-challenged) SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD. In this show, they blew me away again. They both have such great stage presence and I was happy to see that their dancing ability was up to the same level.

The only face I didn’t recognize was Michael Simmons. I don’t know what other shows he has done around town, but I would think that he might have been a little intimidated being cast with all these folks (I would have been), but if he was, he never showed it, nor should he. His voice and fancy footwork not only rounded out this ensemble sufficiently, but put the exclamation point on it!

I know there has been a lot of controversy on Theatre Review because of people reviewing their own shows, or giving glowing reviews to less than deserving productions because their friends or family members were part of the cast. The critiques that include constructive criticism as well as praise given where it is due are the ones that are the most valuable, in my opinion. And in my previous posts, I have tried to offer intelligent observation and insight that might encourage the good stuff and gently point out areas that need improvement. My goal is to play a small part in the nurturing and cultivation of the actors’ careers and the success of the theatre companies – my way of giving back to the art form I adore.

In the case of SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ, I just didn’t see much that needed improved upon, but I hope that doesn’t discount this review as a valid one. Nat Martin has just directed one hell of a show, and Galaxy should be very proud.
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You don't know what you're missing!
by davidc
Saturday, November 4, 2006
5.0
I decided to see the this rendetion of the Broadway show put on by Galaxy Music Theatre in the Relapse Theatre on 14th St. I decided to go only after an invitation of a friend. I'm glad I listened. First off, the music is recognized by all as timeless, fun classics from the 50's and 60's. As a rich bonus, performers such as Tiffany Carter and Nik Alexander engage the audience and pull you right in. Caitlin Smith, performing "Pearl's a Singer" has a serious set of pipes crammed in a small body. Not only can these performers sing, they can dance too. Kudos to Jeremy McShan for choreographing some original moves. Especially in numbers like "Poison Ivy", "Jailhouse Rock" and "Trouble". This isn't your typical "song and dance" routine. The show is rife with comedic moments and the performer's personalities are allowed to shine through....ie "Shopping for Clothes", "D.W. Washburn" and especially "Some Cats Know". You'll have to go to see what I mean. In many shows, the end can be a bit lacking; not here. The final number "Stand by Me" will have you doing just that....standing and singing right along with the performers. The only reason I'm not giving this a "5" is because it was freezing in the theatre. However, once the show starts, the performers heat up the stage. Go see this! Just dress warmly. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

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