Theater Review: 'Smokey Joe's Café'


Theater Review: 'Smokey Joe's Café'


Date: December 19, 2012
by: Paula Atwell | Theater Critic




Sarasotans can rejoice and groove with the moves downtown at Florida Studio Theatre, because the smokin’ sounds of “Smokey Joe’s Café” have been extended. The Grammy-Award-winning musical revue was originally conceived by Stephen Helper, Jack Viertel and Otis Sallis, based on the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two legendary Jewish composers/producers who loved black music and introduced it to an eternally grateful white audience. Leiber and Stoller began writing together as teenagers in the ’50 and their hit-making career spanned several decades. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Directed and Choreographed by Kevyn Morrow, the show vibrates with energy, excitement and verve. Morrow makes one creative choice after another, loading each song with optimum funk, attitude, pathos, irony or humor to suit. Costume designer Lynda Salsbury is equally responsive to the nuance of the numbers, dazzling the eye with an array of sartorial Americana, from saddle shoes to a 20-foot red feather boa.

It’s impossible to sit still in your seat, because the rocking, melodious music appeals to both the young and the nostalgic, thanks to the efforts of Corinne Aquilina, music director, and the band, Joe Bruno, Tony Bruno, Tom Elison and David Nelson, in silhouette at the back of the stage.

Running the gamut of vocal and dance expression from sultry to stirring, from comical to convincing, the ensemble creates a marvel of harmony, rhythm, voice, movement and talent, performing a varied catalogue of songs such as, “Kansas City,” “Trouble,” “Fools Fall In Love,” “Poison Ivy,” “On Broadway,” “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “Loving You,” “Treat Me Nice,” “Hound Dog,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Love Potion No. 9,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Spanish Harlem,” “I (Who Have Nothing)” and “Stand by Me,” to name a small portion.

The cast includes Brittany Avey as Delee; Karen Burthwright as Brenda; Allyson Raye Daniel as BJ; Lianne Marie Dobbs as Pattie; James Harkness as Ken; Arthur W. Marks as Victor; Thomas Rainey as Michael; Devin Roberts as Adrian; and Jason Veasey as Fred.


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