Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Smokey Joe's Cafe
(This video is from "a" production of Forum not from "the" production of Forum that I reviewed.
This review appeared in the Davis Enterprise on 8/23/06
The Music Circus is ending its 2006 season with a high voltage production of “Smokey Joe’s Café,” directed by Barry Ivan and choreographed by Todd L. Underwood. This is a musical salute to the music of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller who, if not familiar names to the audience, have written some of the most memorable music of our lives. Songs like “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Poison Ivy,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Stand by Me,” and the song which brought down the house on opening night, “I’m a Woman.”
“Baby, That is Rock & Roll,” sang the company in the finale, with the middle-aged audience on its feet clapping and cheering its approval.
“Smokey Joe’s Café” is not a plot show. It is simply a revue with nine extremely talented people singing some 42 songs, making some incredible quick costume changes, doing some great dances, and entertaining an appreciative audience.
Inga Ballard, a UCD graduate (a number of years ago), has a big sassy sound and belts out Gospel with the best of ‘em in “Saved,” the first act finale. She does “Fools Fall in Love” in Act 1 and then, for some reason I could not fathom, repeats it in act two. But it’s a knockout number and perhaps worthy of repeating!
Montego Glover was seen earlier in this Music Circus season as the unforgettable title character in “Aida.” When she snaps her feather boa and climbs on, over and under a chair singing “Don Juan,” all thoughts of any Nubian princess will disappear. Her duet with Eric Jordan Young, “Spanish Harlem,” was absolutely stunning.
Deb Lyons, who starred in this show both on Broadway and in London’s West End, lays her heart bare in “I Keep Forgettin’” and tells the story of Pearl the piano player (“Pearl’s a Singer”), who was always looking for that one big break that never came.
The leather-clad Kasey Marino perfected his pelvic thrusts in Elvis fashion for the house-pleasing “Jailhouse Rock.”
Devin Richards, the man with the deep, deep, deep voice brought cheers whenever he went for the low note, but he displayed great comedic talent and was a fine dancer as well.
Harrison White, a great comedic talent, added depth to songs like “Love Potion #9,” “On Broadway,” and “Searchin’” (the first of many songs throughout the evening to bring applause as the audience recognized it).
Darryl Jovan Williams may be small of stature but this is a monumental talent. Whether burying his nose in Inga Ballard’s ample decolletage, “Shoppin’ for Clothes” with some unusual display suits, trying to get himself up out of the gutter as “D.W. Washburn,” or sizzling in “I (Who Have Nothing),” he never failed to be an audience pleaser.
Laura Woyasz must lose at least a pound a performance with her “Teach Me to Shimmy” number alone. Dressed in a white dress made entirely of fringe, she does credit to a Tahitian dancer as she makes that fringe move in ways the designer probably never intended. It’s quite a sight to see.
“Smokey Joe’s Café” is a tour de force for lighting designer, Pamila Grey, whose electric light changes and smokey pools of light created the ambience without the need for elaborate sets.
Steven Howard and Bob Miller deserve kudos for their delicious costumes (and the dressers deserve special recognition for getting the performers on stage with split second timing!)
In anticipation of the popularity of this toe-tapping revue, Music Circus has added an addition four shows to the run, so there should be no problem getting tickets. Get yourself to the Wells Fargo Pavilion while you still have the opportunity.