Sunday, July 21, 2002

Smokey Joe's Cafe (Beck Center)

Remarkable 'SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE' at Beck Center AT BECK CENTER

Start with an outstanding score, add a very talented cast, sprinkle with functional sets, spice with a great band, and place the mixture in the hands of a talented director and choreographer. The results? Beck Center’s remarkable SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE.

SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE is a musical review composed of songs written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who are the soul of the 1950s and 60s Rock and Roll era. Their songs were sung by the likes of Elvis Presley and include such classics as “I’m a Woman,” Jailhouse Rock,””Hound Dog” and “Yakety Yak.” There is no plot, no story line, no attempt to impart a message. This is singing, dancing and music. In lesser hands than choreographer/director Martin Cespedes and his marvelous cast it would have been nothing more than a nice journey back in time. But, not so with the Beck production. This show sizzles with originality and audience pleasing creativity leaving the audience on its feet yelling for more.

Music Director David Anthony Williams, who has conducted over 600 productions of SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE has honed the singing talents of his cast to perfection. His band rocks, yet wisely does not drown out the performers.

The multiracial cast is talented and finely honed. Alltrinna Grayson, who was in the Broadway version of the show which earned seven Tony award nominations, wails. Her version of “Fools Fall in Love” was poignant and powerful. She controls the stage whenever she appears. Multi-talented Laurel Held-Posey convulses the audience with her rendition of “Teach Me How To Shimmy.”

Lawrence Maurice’s deep base voice perfectly blends with the quartet throughout and he endears himself in “Charlie Brown.” Darrel Miller thrilled the audience with his falsetto version of “Who Have Nothing.”

Michelle Moye, does a fine job with “Neighborhood.” M. Duanne Osborne is a Nat King Cole look and sound-alike. His “Spanish Harlem” is exceedingly well danced and sung.

Craig Recko, a former Times Tribute award winner, had the audience cheering with his rendition of “Jailhouse Rock.” Beautiful and vocally talented Trinidad Rosado totally enticed the audience with “You’re the Boss” and “Don Juan.” Devon Settles is a wonderful dancer and did a fine version of “Love Potion #9.”

Caplsule judgement: Beck’s SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE illustrates what local theatre can be at its very best! Congrats to Martin Cespedes, his cast, and production crew. The show deserves a sold out’s that good!