Smokey Joe's Cafe

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Smokey Joe's Cafe
The Songs of Leiber and Stoller
Smokey joe's cafe.jpg
Original Cast Recording
Music Jerry Leiber
Mike Stoller
Lyrics Jerry Leiber
Mike Stoller
Book Revue
Productions 1995 Broadway
1996 West End

Smokey Joe's Cafe is a musical revue showcasing 39 pop standards, including rock and roll and rhythm and blues songs written by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Original Broadway cast recording, Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs Of Leiber And Stoller, won a Grammy award in 1996.

After a Los Angeles tryout, the revue opened on Broadway in 1995, running for 2,036 performances, making it the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history.[1] It also had a London run in 1996.

Synopsis[edit]

In revue format with no unifying theme, the 39 songs are presented by various members of the cast in various combinations, with no dialogue. There are novelty songs ("Charlie Brown"), romantic ballads ("Spanish Harlem"), and infectious melodies ("There Goes My Baby").[2]

Songs[edit]

Music and lyrics for all songs are by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, unless otherwise noted.

Productions[edit]

Smokey Joe's Cafe was conceived by Stephen Helper, Jack Viertel, and Otis Sallid.[3] Presented in a revue format with no unifying theme, it showcases 39 songs, sung by members of the cast in various combinations, with no dialogue.[4] The musical had its world premiere at the Doolittle Theatre in Los Angeles, where it ran from November 1994 to January 22, 1995.[5] The revue opened on Broadway on March 2, 1995 at the Virginia Theatre and closed on January 16, 2000 after 2,036 performances. Directed by Jerry Zaks with choreography by Joey McKneely, the nine person cast featured Ken Ard, Adrian Bailey, Brenda Braxton, Victor Trent Cook, B. J. Crosby, Pattie D'Arcy Jones, DeLee Lively, Frederick B. Owens, and Michael Park. Throughout its run, there were special appearances by many popular singers, including Ben E. King (December 1998),[6] Pam Tillis (April 1999), Gladys Knight (May 1999), Tony Orlando (June 1999), Lou Rawls (April 1999),[7] Gloria Gaynor (August 1999)[8] and Rick Springfield (October 1999).[9] Gladys Knight also appeared in the tour when it played Boston in February 2000,[10] and a production at Caesar's Palace Circus Maximus, Las Vegas in March–June 2000.[11] The final Broadway performance was filmed and later released on DVD in 2001.

It premiered in the West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre on October 1, 1996 and ran through January 1, 1997. Zaks directed and McKneely choreographed, with some of the Broadway cast (Cook, Lively, and Crosby) repeating their roles.[12][13][14]

Response[edit]

The theatre critic for the magazine Variety, in reviewing the Los Angeles tryout, noted that "the songwriters, director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Joey McKneely don't do enough packaging of the material, don't go far enough taking songs first heard on transistor radios and re-imagining them for the stage...There are a couple of halfhearted attempts at structure. The show opens and closes with the 1974 obscurity "Neighborhood," which suggests this will be a scrapbook of memories."[5]

Ben Brantley, the theatre critic for The New York Times wrote that the revue "is a strangely homogenized tribute to one of popular music's most protean songwriting teams...There has obviously been a decision not to go for literal period nostalgia, so the songs are freed from their distinctive original contexts...Too often, though, the performers are simply singing into space without any ostensible reason for being there."[15]

The theatre critic for The Guardian (London), noted that the London cast consists of "acting singers rather than singing actors, which suits a show where there's almost no acting to be done. Whew - no pesky plot development or subtexts, just a glut of glowing pop tunes...There's no attempt at chronology, or even biography."[13]

According to the theatre critic for the Washington Post, Peter Marks, the revue "never quite attained smash-hit status," but it made popular the musical fashioned on the existing work of "pop composers already beloved by baby boomers."[16]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1995 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Victor Trent Cook Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Brenda Braxton Nominated
B.J. Crosby Nominated
DeLee Lively Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Jerry Zaks Nominated
Best Choreography Joey McKneely Nominated
1996 Grammy Award Best Musical Show Album Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ehren, Christine (2 June 1999). "Smokey Joe's Becomes Longest-Running B'way Musical Revue-". Playbill. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Stoudt, Charlotte."Review: 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' at El Portal Theatre",L.A. Times, December 16, 2008
  3. ^ "Internet Broadway Database listing, Smokey Joe's Cafe, 3/2/1995 - 1/16/2000" ibdb.com, accessed August 24, 2009
  4. ^ Stoudt, Charlotte."Review: 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' at El Portal Theatre",L.A. Times, December 16, 2008
  5. ^ a b Taylor, Jonathan (November 17, 1994). "Review: ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’". Variety. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Jones, Kenneth and Simonson, Robert (14 Dec 1998). "Ben E. King to "Stand By" Smokey Joe's Cafe Dec. 15-27". Playbill. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Feldberg, Robert. "Broadway seeks out big names", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin), April 5, 1999, Section: Cue & Jump p. 3
  8. ^ Barron, James. "Public Lives", The New York Times, August 5, 1999, p. B2
  9. ^ Edel, Raymond. "People", The Record (Bergen County, NJ), September 23, 1999, p. A2
  10. ^ "Gladys Knight to star in touring version of 'Smokey Joe's Cafe'", The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA), December 11, 1999, p. 40
  11. ^ Delaney, Joe (17 March 2000). "Knight, company enliven ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  12. ^ Chronology of London Shows, 1996 guidetomusicaltheatre.com, accessed August 22, 2009
  13. ^ a b Sullivan, Caroline. "First Night: Air Of Nostalgia At Smokey Joe's", The Guardian (London), October 24, 1996, p.2
  14. ^ Benedict, David. "Theatre: Smokey Joe's Cafe Prince of Wales Theatre, London", The Independent (London), October 25, 1996, p. 19
  15. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Theatre Review: 'Smokey Joe's Cafe', The Song's the Thing: A Leiber-Stoller Revue", The New York Times, March 3, 1995, p. C1
  16. ^ Marks, Peter. "'Smokey Joe's Cafe': Same Old Same Oldies", Washington Post, April 12, 2008

External links[edit]