Smokey Joe's Cafe, the hit revue of songs by the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, is now in its second year on Broadway, going strong with a national tour circling the country and a recent, well received opening in London.
As with its Broadway progenitor, the Smokey tour uses an ensemble, rather than a star-driven cast. The New York cast currently features Ken Ard, Adrian Bailey, Brenda Braxton, Pattie Darcy Jones and Frederick B. Owens (all original cast members) and Robert Neary, Billy Porter and Natasha Rennalls. Braxton recently brought down the house at New York's "Gypsy Of The Year" fundraising event, playing herself as a seventy-odd year old woman, still doing her boa schtick in Smokey Joe.
The recently opened London production, at the Prince Of Wales Theatre, received strong reviews, especially for two cast members from the original New York company: DeLee Lively and Victor Trent Cook ("Cook's rendition of `I (Who Have Nothing)' is the most sensational piece of anguished soul I ever heard," wrote James Christopher of the London Times, who capped his review with, "The American producers have every reason to be optimistic about Smokey Joe's Cafe. Nine out of ten times when a show like this aims low it hits zero. This one hits the bull's eye. "
The surprise musical hit of the '94-'95 Broadway season, Smokey served as Sunset Boulevard's sole competitor for the Best Musical Tony in 1995.
The revue, featuring such 50's and early 60's classics as "Hound Dog", "Love Potion #9", and "Stand By Me", opened in Chicago in July 1994 under the title Baby That's Rock 'n' Roll. After a change of director, the revamped show, newly under the helm of Jerry Zaks (with musical staging by Joey McKneely), opened four months later at L.A.'s Doolittle Theater as Smokey Joe's Cafe, and then tranferred to Broadway's Virginia Theater in March 1995. Following are dates for Smokey Joe's Cafe national tour:
- Proctor's Art Center and Theatre of Schenectady Dec. 3-5, 1996
- Mechanic Theatre, Baltimore Dec 10-22, 1996
- Carpenter Center, Richmond Dec 24-29, 1996
- Ohio Theatre, Columbus Dec. 31-Jan 5, 1997
- Fisher Theatre, Detroit Jan 7-26, 1997
For tickets and information on the Broadway Smokey Joe's Cafe, at the Virginia Theatre on West 52nd St., call (212) 239-6200. There's a special sale on tickets purchased before Dec. 9: all seats between Jan. 7 and March 15, 1997 are only $15 or $30.