If you are looking to be charmed by the smooth sounds of a live band, the talented crooning of eight solid performers, and some memorable tunes by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, CMPAC's Smokey Joe's Café is just the place to spend your evening.
Without the standard storyline and glitz of a typical musical extravaganza, Smokey Joe's Cafe takes the time to sit back and focus on the music. Mixing and mingling through bluesy favorites such as "On Broadway", "Yakety Yak", "Hound Dog", "Love Potion #9" and "Stand by Me" is a winning cast of four men (Brian Crook, Kyle Petty, Eric Rubenstein, and Jim Sluder) and four women (Michelle Demetillo, Brenda Festo-Beck, Jen Kane, and Angela Reteguiz). In their best evening wear and equipped with snazzy dance moves choreographed by Nicole Fox Mandato with assistance from Alison Carella, each song manages to bring laughter ("Dance with Me"), sizzle ("Some Cats Know"), longing ("I [Who Have Nothing]"), and just plain fun ("You're the Boss") to the stage.
Despite its lack of a cohesive plot and character names, some of the strongest moments in this production were actually when the cast was able to interact and play off one another. In Dance With Me, Petty and Festo-Beck are able to showcase their comedic skills and bring life to an otherwise romantic song. (Petty does this adorably once again in "Charlie Brown".) Once the second act begins and all of the characters are seated at their own lounge tables, they are once again given the opportunity to share the spotlight. In ways, it is a detriment of the show itself that the characters aren't able to develop long-standing relationships on stage because one can see how much this particular group enjoys working with one another. Their chemistry and camaraderie are apparent.
Directed by Nicole Fox Mandato, CMPAC's presentation of Smokey Joe's Cafe is a fast-paced musical boasting brilliant vocals, swaying hips, and a well-deserved shout-out to a fabulous band. A show that can cater to all ages, you're sure to find yourself clapping or humming along to the music in no time.
Smokey Joe's Cafe is playing at CMPac until February 5th with performances on Wednesdays at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. (Wednesday, February 1st will hold two performances: 2pm & 7:30pm.) For more information on location and tickets, please visit their website at www.cmpac.com.
Photo Credits: Briggs Houston.