Bill Hanney's Theatre by the Sea's opening show of their 82nd season is "Smokey Joe's Cafe", the longest running Broadway musical revue. Created by the legendary song-writing team, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the show contains 41 of their greatest hits from the 50's and 60's vibrantly to life and illuminates a golden age of American culture. They wrote for Elvis, Dion, The Drifters and the Coasters and their music helped to bridge the gap between black and white audiences. Their songs remain the most iconic music of that era. Director/choreographer Kevin Hill delivers a high energy show from start to finish with his nine multitalented performers while music director Mike Moise delivers the goods with his direction of their fabulous vocal talent and harmonization in all these numbers. Add Kevin's marvelous dances to the mix and you have a phenomenal production that makes the audience rise to their feet in unison at the close of this high energy show.
What a dynamite way to open the season. Kevin keeps things moving from one number to the other, making it flow along smoothly while Mike leads a marvelous orchestra onstage with nonstop music. He taught them all these intricate songs. I've been reviewing Mike since he was in high school. Kevin gives each member of his cast their moment to shine. The marvelous set is by Cassandra Lentz and the gorgeous colorful costumes are by Dana Pinkston. The nine talented cast members voices soar in their group numbers with fantastic harmonies especially funny is the audience participation song "Yakety Yak". Since there are 41 numbers in this show, I'll mention some of their solo highlight numbers. Darrell T. Joe who is a basso profundo sings the lead in "Little Eygpt", a comic song about his sexy girlfriend who is now his wife. Kendall Hope, a pretty blonde, sings "I Keep Forgettin' " and "Pearl's a Singer" with her topnotch voice reminds you of a young Bette Midler. Statuesque gorgeous brunette, Mary Claire King plays a sexy vamp in "Teach Me to Shimmy" and in "Poison Ivy" while dancing up a storm and displays her voice in "Falling", a ballad. Israel Hillery sings "Stay a While", "Loving You" and "Spanish Harlem" while displaying his strong tenor voice.
Alana Cauthen stops the show with her awesome voice which sounds like Nell Carter. She brings the house down with her gospel number "Saved" about giving up her evil ways at the end of Act 1 and brings the house down again with the bluesy "Fools Fall in Love." Kevin Curtis who I last reviewed 10 years ago when he played Duane in "Hairspray" at NSMT, displays his high tenor voice while singing the comic "D.W. Washburn" and delivers the pathos need for emotion packed "I Who Have Nothing." Sexy Brittany Walters sings the vampy "Don Juan" while wearing a feather boa and flirting with a guy in the audience and "Some Cat's Know" is her other number where she exudes a great deal of sex appeal to the audience. Tall, dark and handsome tenor Patrick Graver does a great job imitating Elvis in "Jailhouse Rock" not only vocally but swiveling his hips,too. He also sings the lead in "Teach Me How to Shimmy" with a funny dance at the end of it. Malcolm Armwood sings "Young Blood", "Love Potion #9", the extremely funny "There Goes My Baby" and the powerful closing song "Stand By Me'' which wins thunderous applause. So for a superb evening of familiar standards done excellently, be sure to catch "Smokey Joe's Cafe" at Theatre by the Sea before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.