Smokey Joe"s Cafe is a fun-filled revue of 50 years of music by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stolier, the writers behind such hits as "Yakety Yak," "Love Potion #9," "Stand By Me," "Hound Dog" and many more, not just in rock and roll, but R&B, jazz, pop and cabaret.
Amanda Treadway with John Steven Crowley (kneeling) and Sean Blake in Beef & Boards" "Smokey Joe"s Cafe"
Here you will not find a running plotline, but a succession of classics performed and embellished by the incredibly talented (and refreshingly multiracial) cast of nine, most of whom are performing on the Beef & Boards stage for the first time, under the direction of Marc Robin. Unfortunately, the night I attended, during the second week of its run, there were some ugly sound problems. Hopefully, this was an anomaly, and promptly fixed. The feedback and inconsistency of volume made some of the songs painful, but this was neither the fault of the singers nor the B&B orchestra, which sits onstage and gets the kudos its members deserve. The production opened with "Neighborhood" and was a motif for the remainder of the show. Many songs, such as "Dance with Me," got the comic treatment with a sketching out of the song"s story, but there wasn"t any extensive choreography - not that there needed to be. In "Searchin"" and "D.W. Washburn," Sean Blake comically fleshed out both songs, portraying an overzealous searcher and Bo Jangles-type wanderer, respectively. In "Treat Me Nice," he got to display his strong moves and vocal chords. Two of the best numbers in the show were back to back: a stunning "I (Who Have Nothing)" by Blake and a lovely "Spanish Harlem" by Parrish Collier and Shannon Antalan. Equally terrific was Cynthia Cobb"s rendition of "Fools Fall in Love." The quartet of Blake, Collier, John Steven Crowley and Alonzo Murphy-Johnson made an amazing sound in songs like "Searchin"." Keely Vasquez presented a classy "Pearl"s a Singer," and Amanda Treadway, while not having the strongest voice onstage, danced a truly amazing shimmy for "Teach Me How to Shimmy." Antalan flitted flirtatiously about with a monstrous red feather boa in "Don Juan" and "Some Cats Know" - costumes, by Thom Hoffman, were mostly attractive and fitting for the varied numbers, except for the over-sized gold cummerbunds in "On Broadway." But what is a B&B show unless something is taken to the top and pushed over? Smokey Joe"s Cafe runs through Aug. 11. Shows are Tuesday through Sunday. Call 872-9664 for reservations.