Producers of Smokey Joe's Cafe are hoping buzz about its upcoming 1,500th performance (Oct. 3) and the return of two of its original stars will bring the long-running pop revue out of late-summer box office slump and into a fiery fall.
Attendance at the Virginia Theatre, where Smokey Joe's has celebrated the pop music of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller since March 2, 1995, lingered around the 50 percent mark in the first two weeks of September (48.7 percent Aug. 31-Sept. 6; 50.4 percent Sept. 7-13), rising to 57 percent for the week ending Sept. 20.
Jeff Dobbins of Richard Frankel Productions told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 22) the return of Tony-nominated original stars Victor Cook (on Sept. 29) and B.J. Crosby (on Oct. 6) -- re-teaming with four other nominees and all but one original player -- might spark things for the revue.
Dobbins said he hopes a new print ad campaign, begun in late summer, and the reunion of eight of the original nine cast members by Oct. 6 "will create an amount of interest and excitement for the show," pushing it into the lucrative holiday season. The show will celebrate its 1,500th performance Oct. 3, according to Dobbins. Michael Park, the only original cast member not returning, is in rehearsals for the Roundabout Theatre's Little Me.
Dobbins suggested further box office embers might be stoked later this season by the possible return of Ben E. King to sing Leiber-Stoller numbers he helped make famous, "Spanish Harlem" and "Stand by Me." King performed in the show for a limited time earlier in the run.
Also in the company are Ken Ard, Adrian Bailey, Patti Darcy Jones, Fred Owens, Jerry Tellier and Tony nominees DeLee Lively and Brenda Braxton.
* Jerry Zaks directed the revue, subtitled The Songs of Leiber and Stoller, which opened to mixed notices from critics. The show quickly became an audience favorite, and its continued success is a textbook example of the power of word-of mouth.
Joey McKneely designed choreography for the nine-person ensemble cast. Some of the Leiber & Stoller songs featured are: "Kansas City," "Searchin'," "On Broadway," "I'm A Woman," "Poison Ivy," "Yakety Yak," "Charlie Brown," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Hound Dog."
For more information on Smokey Joe's Cafe at the Virginia Theatre call (212) 239-6200 or check out their website at http:\\smokeyjoescafe.com.