SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE
words and music by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller
directed by Randy Johnson
scenic and projection design by Caite Hevner
costume design by Ilona Somogyi
lighting design by Dan Ozminkowski
"With a knockout cast and staging that never slows for a minute, Arena Stage's glorious production of Smokey Joe's Café - The Songs of Leiber and Stoller is a crowd-pleaser of the highest degree. [...] On the Fichandler's in-the-round stage, they strut, cavort, and sway around the central bandstand and regularly appear in the aisles. [...] Musical director Rick Fox, conducting from the piano, leads six other musicians in an almost non-stop performance that powers on through to the curtain call and after. The two-hour performance, with one intermission, flies past as it builds on strength after strength. Even the look of the show is spot-on. Caite Hevner Kemp's functional set, with its levitating platforms and ramps, shines under Dan Ozminkowski's lighting design and Kemp's projections."
-Susan Berlin, Talkin' Broadway
"A highly stylized, spirited musical revue that shimmies through the (popular and some not-so-popular) songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Smokey Joe's Café triumphs—from its superb cast down to all the fedoras and a couple of well-placed pairs of saddle shoes. No detail is missed. With no discernible, unifying story thread between the songs, the musical numbers could easily lose meaningful momentum, but director Randy Johnson (last seen at Arena Stage with A Night With Janis Joplin) has assembled a complete package. Giving the show structure, vision and palpable ambiance, he creates a lifetime stroll through the 1950s, conjuring memories of milestone moments from prom to leaving home and first love. The nostalgia tied to the songs becomes a character all its own—one with a biography with which anyone from any generation can identify. The band sits at the center of it all, with a walk-able, danceable perimeter in a stage reminiscent of a city block. The costumes are shades of gray, black and white with red spread throughout. At times it represents sex. Passion. Playfulness. Even lust."
-Kelly McCorkendale, DCTheatreScene.com