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‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ at Allenberry Playhouse

October 7, 2012
By JACK FELIX - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

BOILING SPRINGS - The joint that's jumpin' is "Smokey Joe's Cafe."

Allenberry Playhouse completes its trio of summer musicals, following "The Sound of Music" and "Chicago" with the musical revue "Smokey Joe's Cafe," which has matinee and evening performances Tuesday through Sunday, now through Oct. 14.

The show is dubbed a "jukebox musical" because there is no original score. But the distinguishing mark of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" is that almost all of the 39 rock 'n' roll or rhythm and blues tunes were penned solely by the prolific team of Lieber and Stoller, and just a few with a little help from their friends.

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“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” will be performed Tuesday through Sunday, now through Oct. 14, at Allenberry Playhouse.

Although there is no unifying theme, Artistic Director Roque Berlanga noted that the stories sung occur in and around the "Neighborhood," one of the tunes reprised in the two-hour, fast-moving revue.

This version presented on Allenberry's cozy-sized stage works in entertaining the audience. Even with no dialogue, there is still effective storytelling, thanks to the very talented vocalists. Five men and four women sing a flurry of tales of heartbreaks, short-lived romances and fantasies.

With great voices and fine vocal blends, a mix of romantic ballads, hard-driving rock numbers and a few novelty tunes brought lots of applause at a recent Sunday matinee audience.

Katie McCreary (Mama Morton in Allenberry's "Chicago") is one of the top-notch singers, striking all the high notes of "Saved" and the "Fools Fall in Love" reprise.

Highlights from the female vocalists include Roslyn Searle's sultry "Don Juan," Audrey Layne's "Teach Me How to Shimmy" and the foursome's rousing "I Am Woman."

The spotlight shines brightest on the men with the black quartet's Drifters and Coasters numbers ("On Broadway," "Poison Ivy") and the novelty "Shopping for Clothes" number.

But the funniest and most-energized vocalist is Bentley Black. He's hilarious with his drunken portrayal of "D.W. Washburn."

The onstage band is hidden behind a scrim till the end of Act I, when the curtain is raised and the bandstand is revealed and Music Director Todd Olson and the instrumentalists are seen moving downstage.

There are no set pieces except the table and chairs in the cafe where much of Act II is set. Exceptionally good-looking costuming include the ladies' gowns, the men's sleek silver suits, the eye-catching white fringed mini-dress suitable for shimming and the inmates' striped "Jailhouse Rock" outfits.

With swinging, swaying and stage movements throughout the revue, Rachel Boone's choreography is nicely executed, making "Smokey Joe's Cafe" the spot to be for lots of delightful dancing.

Musical revues are not everyone's favorite format, with some preferring a structure of a book musical. But "Smokey Joe's Cafe" stands out as Broadway's longest-running revue. Theatergoers will get a double treat by visiting Boiling Springs in October. First, the grounds at Allenberry Resort are always full of beautiful foliage and, secondly, "Smokey Joe's Cafe," from the opening "Neighborhood," to the powerful finale "Stand by Me," is full of highly polished musical entertainment.

For more information, call 717-258-3211 or email aberry@allenberry .com.



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