Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Smokey Joe’s Café Ignites the Wilmington Drama League Stage!

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Smokey Joe’s Café -- with songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller -- is a toe-tapping, hand-clapping stroll through a bygone era. The show doesn’t have a plot like most jukebox musicals of late; instead, Smokey Joe’s Café is a musical revue including 39 of Lieber and Stoller’s classic rock & roll and rhythm & blues songs, spanning the 1950s and 60s.

Director and choreographer Dominic Santos stages a seamless production that easily flows from one song to the next. Instead of depending on many set pieces, Santos uses projections by AV Designer Tony DelNegro to create atmosphere. He also houses the show’s outstanding band on the stage (led by Musical Director Anthony Vitalo), which enhances the exuberant performances.

The nine-member cast (Tonya "TS" Baynes, Tommy Fisher-Klein, Lauren Hope Gates, Corey Kelly, Chelsea Miller, Lyndie Moe, Mr. Santos, Dan Urdaneta and Jacob Bauer Zebley) gives electrifying performances. From the smooth four-part harmony of Fisher-Klein, Kelly, Santos and Urdaneta singing "Keep on Rollin’" and "On Broadway" to the take-charge attitude of Baynes, Gates, Miller, and Moe singing "I’m a Woman" to the rollicking good time of Bauer Zebley performing "Jailhouse Rock" (I LOVED his Elvis moves), there are no dull moments in the two-hour show.

Of course, there are few ballads sprinkled throughout the revue, such as "Spanish Harlem" and "I (Who have Nothing)," respectively performed Urdaneta and Fisher-Klein. While Urdaneta performs a gorgeous rendition of "Spanish Harlem," Moe dances the part of the girl who is on his mind. Fisher-Klein bares his soul and finds the anguish and sadness of the haunting "I (Who have Nothing)."

I can’t finish my review discussing ballads, so I have to mention the scantily clad Baynes' captivating performance of "Don Juan." The lady knows how to turn up the heat! She amazingly sings the seductive tune and works a boa like a true temptress!

Smokey Joe’s Café is great nostalgic fun. The show runs through February 1 at the Wilmington Drama League. Visit the website or call 
302.764.1172 for additional information and tickets.

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