|(back row) Joshua Vern, Jack Lambert, Mason Reeves, Skyler Washburn, and Michael Shulz|
(front row) Ali Whitwell, Iesha Mills, Kim Cooper-Schmidt, and Jessica Freiling
Photo by Tiffany Bolock / Desert Foothills Theater
Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 17th.
" The songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller composed many hit songs in the 1950s and 1960s. Their songs crossed music styles from pop, to rock and roll, and rhythm and blues. Some of their well-known tunes include "Hound Dog," "Love Potion #9," "On Broadway" and "Stand by Me." Desert Foothills Theatre presents a solid production of the 1995 musical revue Smokey Joe's Cafe which features over three dozen Leiber and Stoller tunes. While it is a revue short on plot and character development, it is high on energy due to this production's talented cast. While the song "Neighborhood" is used to somewhat frame the show as a scrapbook of memories, and the characters who live in the neighborhood represent those mentioned in several of the songs, Smokey Joe's Cafe really has no conventional plot. It does, however, let the songs themselves, and the talent of Leiber and Stoller, be the focus on display throughout the show ..Under T.A. Burrow and Damon J. Bolling's skilled direction, Desert Foothills Theater's production features a cast of nine talented Valley performers, including three gifted youth performers who are about to graduate high school. All nine have good to very good voices which do justice to the varied styles of music in the show. The show includes plenty of solo songs along with dozens of group numbers, and the harmonies the nine singers deliver are simply lovely. ...Dan Kurek's music direction is impressive, delivering a rich sound from the small orchestra and superb vocals from the cast. Burrow and Bolling's varied direction and the energetic choreography by Lynzee J. Foreman provide extremely striking segments....While it may lack a lot in plot and character development, since there isn't much of either, Smokey Joe's Cafe is still a crowd pleaser due to the enormous popularity of the songs that Leiber and Stoller wrote. With a gifted cast, skilled direction, and some superb choreography, Desert Foothills Theater's production is a winner." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)