The Broadway musical Smokey Joe's Cafe will play its 1000th performance at the Wednesday July 23 evening performance.
Jerry Zaks directed the revue of classic rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It opened March 2, 1995 at the Virginia Theatre to mixed notices from critics, but quickly became an audience favorite. Its continued success is one of the textbook examples of the power of word-of-mouth.
Joey McKneely designed choreography for the nine-person ensemble. Most of the original cast -- Ken Ard, Adrian Bailey, Brenda Braxton, B.J. Crosby, Pattie Darcy Jones, DeLee Lively and Frederick B. Owens -- remains. They have been joined by Bobby Daye and Robert Neary.
Smokey Joe's Cafe was nominated for seven 1995 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Director, Choreography, Featured Actress (Brenda Braxton, B.J. Crosby, and DeLee Lively) and Featured Actor (Victor Trent 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. The touring cast includes three performers with Broadway pedigree -- Eugene Fleming (A Chorus Line, Swinging On A Star), Darrian Ford (State Fair, Alvin Ailey Dance Company) and Reva Rice (Starlight Express). Coincidentally, on July 23, the SJC tour will be officially opening at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Cosa Mesa, CA.
The touring company will be on the road at least into March, 1998 when it's set to play Seattle, according to Catherine Major, press representative for the tour. But she said there were plans to extend and that talks were in the works for a foreign tour. Japan has been mentioned as one of the stops.
SJC is also playing on London's West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre and at Reno, NV's El Dorado Hotel.
SJC recently launched a website at http:\\smokeyjoescafe.com.
-- By Ellis Nassour