Friday, April 29, 2016

Smokey Joe’s Café Comes to Tacoma Little Theatre

Photo: Poster for Smokey Joe’s Café. Courtesy of Tacoma Little Theatre.

A preview

Published in the Weekly Volcano, April28, 2016

Smokey Joe's Cafe is a musical revue showcasing 39 pop standards by the great songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It’s rock and roll; it’s rhythm and blues; it’s the song track of the 1950s and early ’60s with dancing and costumes but no story line or dialogue.
When it played on Broadway 20 years ago it won five Tony awards, including Best Musical, and the next year the original Broadway cast recording, Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs Of Leiber And Stoller, copped a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. The show became Broadway’s longest running musical revue, and over the past two decades has continued to thrill audiences of all ages in community theaters and school performances. Unbelievably, it has never played in Tacoma, but in May it is coming to Tacoma Little Theatre with a nine-person cast under the direction of Micheal O’Hara and a six-piece band directed by Terry O'Hara.
The 39 songs are presented by various members of the cast in different combinations, with no dialogue. There are novelty songs ("Charlie Brown"), romantic ballads ("Spanish Harlem"), and infectious melodies ("There Goes My Baby"), and the great standard "Stand by Me," with music and lyrics by Ben E. King in collaboration with Leiber and
Among the many rock classics featured in Smokey Joe’s are such hits as “Yakety Yak,” “On Broadway,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Fools Fall in Love,” “Young Blood,” “Kansas City,” and “Poison Ivy” — a tiny teaser of what’s in store for Tacoma audiences. 
Director O'Hara is a mainstay in Tacoma theaters. He has performed in countless shows including the charming Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks with his lovely wife, Sharry O’Hare, and also with his wife the two-person Love Letters at Lakewood Playhouse. He also played Dr. Jekyll in Jekyll and Hyde at Lakewood Playhouse, and was the engineer in Miss Saigon at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. As a director at TLT he has helmed Lend me a Tenor, Annie, and Always Patsy Cline.
“It’s all music and dance,” O’Hara says. “It’s really just a musical revue spectacular of Leiber and Stoller music, with songs from Elvis to the Coasters and the Drifters. One of the nice things is everybody in the cast is a fresh face. None have performed on the TLT stage. And it’s a mixed-race cast with five blacks, one Hawaiian and three Caucasians.”
TLT Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface says, "This is an amazing show that has not been performed by any Tacoma theatre. It is a beautiful celebration of the Leiber and Stoller songbook. I have always enjoyed the show, and felt that Tacoma should have the chance to see it. The right creative team was available so I knew it was time.  You will recognize every song and be amazed by the dancing."
Singing and dancing in the show will be: Melanie Gladstone, Ashanti Proctor, Jermaine Lindsay, Ashley Jackson, Nancy Hebert, Eric Clausell, Bruce Haasl, Loucas Curry, and
Kawika Huston.
Smokey Joe’s Cafe, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday, May 20-June, $22-$26, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N “I” St., Tacoma, 253.272.2281,

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