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Curtain Up: Theater Review by Camille Bounds: ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ Is Where Rock n’ Roll Began

Published online June 8, 2017

By Camille Bounds

Anthone Jackson (Adrian), Montel Nord (Ken), Anthony Rollins-Mullens.
Photo courtesy Broadway by the Bay

Lieber and Stoller’s “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” opened on Broadway in 1995, earned seven Tony Award nominations and ran for almost 5 years. Consider this show that didn’t have a story or book just solid rock and roll music, songs and dance that Lieber and Stoller wrote in their hay day for Elvis Presley, Big Mama Thorton ,The Drifters. and many more of that time frame.

Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller started combining their talents when they were teen agers. and turned out pop hit after pop hit for that baby boomer generation.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe bombards with 39 of their most famous songs and keeps up a solid beat for two hours plus.

Director Brandon Jackson keeps everyone moving at top speed without losing the meaning of the individual numbers. Camille Edralin keeps things moving throughout the entire performance with her cleaver ever changing chorography. Leandra Watson’ costumes grabs attention, the red fringe “Teach Me How to Shimmy” costume is a standout that keeps eyes peeled, Jon Hayward’s fine sound, Scenic Designer Kelly James Tighe and Aaron Spivey’ lighting completes a super tech group that made for a well done production.

Nine performers delivered the music of that time with energy and strong talent.

Chris Aceves, Jessica Coker, Anthone Jackson, Janelle LaSalle, Cadarious Mayberry, Montel Nord, Anthony Rollins-Mullens, Magesty Scott, Cheyenne Wells give a hundred and ten percent. Conductor Sean Kana is on stage with his solid orchestra for the whole show and brings everything up to the high level Kena always delivers.

This is a nostalgic visit for anyone that lived through that time – you could feel the audience members catching memories from some of the offerings. Hound Dog, Spanish Harlem, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Poison Ivy, There Goes My Baby, Kansas City and Dance With Me are just a few of what was offered . If you are a little younger this is a great history lesson when Rock and Roll was at its ultimate time. One thing for sure it will keep you awake.

Camille Bounds is the theatre, arts and special events columnist for Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. She can be reached at – bounds17@gmail.com

Details

Smokey Joe’s Cafe

Where: Fox Theatre

2215 Broadway Street, Redwood City

Through: June 18

Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15 minute intermission

Information and tickets: 650/369-7770 orr visit: www.broadwaybythebay.org