So maybe the formula wasn't foolproof. Street Corner Symphony tried it and failed after just a few weeks on Broadway. Other rock and roll-based revues across the country can be hit-or-miss affairs. But that Broadway phenom, Smokey Joe's Cafe, just keeps on smokin'.
The show turns three on March 2, at its home, the Virginia Theatre on West 52nd St.
There's no big celebration planned (in fact, the show is dark tonight) but certainly the producers have reason to celebrate. Jerry Zaks directed this revue of classic pop songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, which opened March 2, 1995 to mixed notices from critics. The show quickly became an audience favorite, and its continued success is a textbook examples of the power of word-of-mouth. As of Mar. 1, the Broadway musical had played 1,245 performances.
Joey McKneely designed choreography for the nine-person ensemble cast. DeLee Lively, Brenda Braxton and Pattie Darcy Jones, of the original cast, are still in the show. D'Atra Hicks has taken over for B.J. Crosby (now on tour in Dreamgirls). Originals Ken Ard, Adrian Bailey and Frederick B. Owens are still with the show, joined by James Beeks and Jerry Tellier oduction spokesperson Stephen Pitalo (of Boneau/Bryan-Brown) points out that Braxton is busy even when the Cafe isn't. Every Sunday, she conducts a seminar, "Leading Lades -- Just For Teens," whose idea is to help teenagers interested in theatre to make positive choices in life. The seminar features a backstage tour.
Smokey Joe's Cafe was nominated for seven 1995 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Director, Choreography, Featured Actress (Braxton, Crosby, and Lively) and Featured Actor (Cook). The show's cast recording won a Grammy Award. Some of the Leiber & Stoller songs featured are: "Kansas City," "Searchin'," "On Broadway" (which opened the 1995 Tony telecast and was featured during the opening of the 1997 telecast with the cast singing with Rosie O'Donnell), "I'm A Woman," "Poison Ivy," "Yakety Yak," "Charlie Brown," "Spanish Harlem," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Hound Dog."
The first national tour of SJC opened in Minneapolis August 17, 1996. SJC is also playing since (Oct. 23, 1996) on London's West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
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.