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Smokey Joe’s Café
a Musical Revue
by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 5310

SHOWING : July 13, 2018 - August 05, 2018



Join the biggest rock and roll party of the year as some of the most popular hits from the 50’s and 60’s come alive in this long running, Tony Award nominated Broadway smash musical. Elvis Presley, The Drifters, Peggy Lee and the Coasters all scored their biggest hits with songs by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who gave us "Hound Dog," "Stand By Me," "Under the Boardwalk" and countless others.

Director Robert Egizio
Cast Fenner Eaddy
Cast Trey Getz
Cast Xylina Nuckles
Cast Kiona D. Reese
Cast Lyndsay Ricketson
Cast George Roberts
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Coffee Black
by playgoer
Sunday, August 5, 2018
"Smokey Joe’s Café" is the quintessential jukebox musical. It consists of a bunch of Leiber/Stoller songs strung together to make two acts of entertainment. With no overriding plot to move things along, success of a production depends entirely on the skill of the singers and on production values.

The Stage Door Players production has assembled a lot of talent, both onstage and behind the scenes. Chuck Welcome has, as always, provided an excellent set, in this case consisting of a worn street scene with Smokey Joe’s Café up center, with the six-piece band visible through a picture window, and two two-story tenements on either side. J.D. Williams’ lighting design adds a lot of excitement to the proceedings, although moving lights on the two tenements can be a bit distracting. Jim Alford’s costumes add to the visual appeal of the production, and David Rossetti’s inventive choreography often wows, especially in the first act. (Choreography in the second act tends to be inspired by the song title "Stand by Me.")

The energy is palpable in the first act. Strong singing, excellent dancing, and a nice pace keeps things lively. The second act is a let-down. The actors’ energy seems to flag a little, and song reprises lose the sense of novelty. The opening of the second act is a precursor of what is to come. The actors sing a few bars, then Nick Silvestri’s six-piece band plays, spotlighting individual players in the band, although the lights behind the picture window scrim don’t illuminate the players brightly. Since the band has overwhelmed the singers in most numbers in Rial Ellsworth’s sound design, ceding the show to them magnifies the sound problems in the show. When a solo singer is backed by the band and an ensemble of voices not singing words in unison with the soloist, the only hope for distinguishing the lyrics is when they’re repetitive (which is often the case).

Performances are good across the board. Xylina Cassandra and Brian Wesley Turner are particularly good at playing to the audience and milking the comedy out of moments. Fenner Eaddy and George P. Roberts shine in dances, and Solita Parrish has a sly, easy way of communicating what seem to be ad libs. Kiona D. Reese and Kendrick Taj Stephens have strong voices, but don’t stand out from the others. Shimmying soprano Lyndsay Ricketson and hip-swiveling Trey Getz add racial diversity to the cast. Voices blend nicely throughout, although even Xylina Cassandra’s rafter-raising solo voice can’t compete with the band and with background vocals.

"Smokey Joe’s Café" depends on the familiarity of pop songs from the 50’s and 60’s. (Building addresses on the set are "1952," "67," and "2018," to underline the time differential.) It’s enjoyable enough for those familiar with the songs, but the whole thing tends to go on a bit too long. Robert Egizio has directed a thoroughly professional production, but it smacks more of a coffee bar on a Sunday afternoon than of a smoky bar serving liquor. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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