PHOTO EXCLUSIVE: "Teach Me How to Shimmy!" A Two-Show Day at Arena Stage's Smokey Joe's Café

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29 May 2014

Smokey Joe's Café — The Songs of Leiber and Stoller rocks out in a new production at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage. Cast member and dance captain Ashley Blair Fitzgerald shares a recent two-show day.



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Directed by Randy Johnson, the production continues through June 8 on the Fichandler Stage.



The production stars Tony Award winner Levi Kreis (Million Dollar Quartet, One Red Flower) and Helen Hayes Award winners E. Faye Butler (Pullman Porter Blues, Oklahoma!) and Nova Y. Payton (Dreamgirls, Hairspray), as well as Jay Adriel (Guys and Dolls, Legally Blonde), Austin Colby (Crossing and Spin, Spring Awakening), Ashley Blair Fitzgerald (Company, Come Fly Away), Michael J. Mainwaring (Dreamgirls, Oliver), Stephawn P. Stephens (Crowns, Dreamgirls) and Kara-Tameika Watkins (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Camelot).

"Smokey Joe's Café is a foot-stomping celebration of Leiber and Stoller's treasured songbook," artistic director Molly Smith said in a previous statement. "I'm thrilled to welcome back our dear friend Randy Johnson and also the marvelously versatile cast he has assembled. I'm sure they will raise the roof in bringing these timeless tunes to life."

"When Molly called and asked to me direct Smokey Joe's Café, I didn't even let her finish the sentence — it was going to be a 'yes!,'" Johnson added. "I am so happy to be directing my friend Mike Stoller's classic musical, and it's very fitting that my next theatrical venture — after my recent Broadway debut as a director and playwright with A Night with Janis Joplin — is at Arena Stage. It's wonderful to be back in D.C. at my theatrical 'home,' where I've felt incredibly supported and nurtured."

The band for Smokey Joe's Café features Rick Fox, James Davis, Jr., George Hummel, Steven Walker, Dan Hall, Danny Villanueva and Carroll Dashiell III.

The creative team comprises set and projection designer Caite Hevner Kemp, costume designer Ilona Somogyi, lighting designer Dan Ozminkowski, sound designer Carl Casella, wig designer Anne Nesmith, assistant choreographer Jessica Hartman, stage manager Kurt Hall, assistant stage manager Christi B. Spann and musical contractor Rita Eggert. Choreography is by Parker Esse, and music direction is by Rick Fox. 

More information is available by visiting arenastage.org.


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Photo by Ashley Blair Fitzgerald