Monday, October 29, 2018

See the last performances of Smokey Joe’s Café this week and enjoy a great meal Off-Broadway



It’s your last chance to catch the joyous off-Broadway revival of Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller, the all-new incarnation of the record-breaking Broadway hit. The revue, which was originally produced on Broadway in 1995 and was the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history, closes Sunday, November 4. Stage 42, 422 West 42nd Street.

You know the bluesy rock ‘n roll songs and ballads, and I defy you not to tap your feet as the nine-member ensemble led by director choreographer Joshua Bergasse sing more than 30 classic songs like “Stand by Me,” "I'm a Woman," “Hound Dog," "Fools Fall in Love," "On Broadway, " "Yakety Yak," "Pearl's a Singer," "Treat Me Nice," There Goes My Baby," "Love Potion #9," "Jalihouse Rock" and "Spanish Harlem."

Credit: Gary Ng

The show’s stars bring a mix of Broadway and Off-Broadway musical expertise to Smokey Joe’s Café.  Dwayne Cooper (Motown, Hairspray), Emma Degerstedt (Desperate Measures Off-Broadway), John Edwards (Jersey Boys), Dionne D. Figgins (Hot Feet, Memphis), Nicole Vanessa Ortiz (Spamilton Off-Broadway), Kyle Taylor Parker (Kinky Boots, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Jelani Remy (Disney’s The Lion King), Max Sangerman (Blue Man Group Off-Broadway), and Alysha Umphress (On The Town, American Idiot) stand out with their renditions of the classic Leiber & Stoller tunes. Music fans will also recognize the duo as the writers of songs for such legends as Elvis Presley, Ben E. King, The Coasters and The Drifters.

Smokey Joe’s Café has a playlist that keeps the audience rocking, with a wide range of tunes from joyous anthems (“Saved”) to comedic romps (“Charlie Brown”) to songs of yearning (“I Who Have Nothing”). The storytelling and community-building aspects of the songs celebrate the humor, passion, and heartbreak that infuse everyday lives. Bringing to life moments of friendship and unity, the revue is just what we need to bring our very-divided country together. The songs’ messages and emotions resonate today, perhaps with more power than ever.

Credit: Joan Marcus

Smokey Joe’s Cafe is directed and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse and features scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Alejo Vietti, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Peter Fitzgerald, wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, original vocal arrangements by Chapman Roberts, additional original vocal arrangements by Louis St. Louis, music direction by Matt Oestreicher and orchestrations by Sonny Paladino and Steve Margoshes. Music Supervision and new arrangements are also by Mr. Paladino. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting. The show was co-conceived by Stephen Helper and Jack Viertel. It is produced by Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel and Tom Viertel, who also produced the show’s original Broadway engagement.

If You’re Hungry

For dinner, my perennial favorite is the quirky and always-amusing Chez Josephine, 414 West 42nd St. The style is early bordello, adorned with photos of Josephine Baker, the original owner’s mother. Food choices are classic French, and if you arrive at the right time, you’ll also enjoy live music entertainment that fits perfectly with the somewhat bawdy-elegant space. And it’s only a minute’s walk from the theater.

Chez Josephine

Marseille, a little further off at 630 9th Avenue, is quintessential French Mediterranean with a menu filled with mussels, bouillabaisse, and plenty of bistro ambiance and attitude. It’s always packed, so booked early. If you can’t get a table, ask to be seated at the bar.

For a proverbial quick bite to either tide you over before the show or offer a quick snack after, pretty much any of the ethnic restaurants on Ninth Avenue will do the trick. Two to take note of are Sticky’s Finger Joint, offering surprising healthy chicken fingers, at 598 9th Avenue.  Or, if something Asian is your preference, nightclub-y Obao at 647 9th Avenue, serves us reasonably priced pan-Asian selections with heavy emphasis on Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

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