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REVIEWERS SIX DEGREES
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Average Rating Given : 3.50000
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REVIEWS

Smokey Joe's Cafe - The Songs of Lieber and Stoller, by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller
It's "Cafe" not dancehall.
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.

Songs for a New World, by Jason Robert Brown
Songs For A New World
Monday, May 1, 2006
4.0
Ya gotta go see “Songs For A New World” at OnStage Atlanta. It’s really, REALLY good. I wasn’t sure what to expect after hearing it was precast and then hearing it wasn’t. Well, however it was they assembled these four actors, they did a great job. Can’t imagine what talent they could have gotten that could have done it better.

The standout for me was Caitlin Smith. WOW! A really good singer and a great actress. Granted, she did have the comic relief in the show, but having that material and knowing what to do with it is two different things. Congratulations on a wonderful performance.

The others were quite good too. I wondered whom they were going to find to sing the tenor role and they found someone who was definitely up to the task in Clinton Dillard. YOU GO BOY!!! The only bad thing I’d say about his performance, and it’s really not that bad, is that he has as tendency to drop character during musical breaks in his songs.

Amanda Leigh Pickard has a really lovely, controlled soprano voice. “Christmas Lullaby” is a beautiful, touching moment in the show.

Another good voice is that of Brett Parker (too bad the band drowned him out at times). Though I thought his acting was good, it was a bit “too much” for me at places. Just wanted him to pull back with the stares at times. But all in all, a very good performance.

Kudos to the production staff. Barry West did a great job with the direction and staging. It’s really nice when a director let’s the material and the voices tell the story by not overdoing the staging. The musical direction too was very good. Paul Tate got some wonderful sounds out of the cast, as well as the band. However, as I mentioned earlier, the band was too loud at times and a couple of tempos seemed a little slow.

Congratulations OnStage Atlanta!

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