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Smokey Joe's Cafe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Smokey Joe's Cafe
The Songs of Leiber and Stoller
Smokey joe's cafe.jpg
Original Cast Recording
MusicJerry Leiber
Mike Stoller
LyricsJerry Leiber
Mike Stoller
Productions1995 Broadway
1996 West End
2018 Off-Broadway

Smokey Joe's Cafe is a musical revue showcasing 39 pop standards, including rock and roll and rhythm and blues songs written by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Original Broadway cast recording, Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs Of Leiber And Stoller, won a Grammy Award in 1997.

After a Los Angeles tryout, the revue opened on Broadway in 1995, running for 2,036 performances, making it the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history.[1] It also had a London run in 2021.


In revue format with no unifying theme, the 39 songs are presented by various members of the cast in various combinations, with no dialogue. There are novelty songs ("Charlie Brown"), romantic ballads ("Spanish Harlem"), and infectious melodies ("There Goes My Baby").[2]


Music and lyrics for all songs are by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, unless otherwise noted. The song "Smokey Joe's Cafe" is not performed in the show, although a brief instrumental excerpt is used in Act II as transitional music.


Smokey Joe's Cafe was conceived by Stephen Helper, Jack Viertel, and Otis Sallid.[3] Presented in a revue format with no unifying theme, it showcases 39 songs, sung by members of the cast in various combinations, with no dialogue.[2] The musical had its world premiere at the Doolittle Theatre in Los Angeles, where it ran from November 1994 to January 22, 1995.[4] The revue opened on Broadway on March 2, 1995 at the Virginia Theatre and closed on January 16, 2000 after 2,036 performances. Directed by Jerry Zaks with choreography by Joey McKneely, the nine-person cast featured Ken Ard, Adrian Bailey, Brenda Braxton, Victor Trent Cook, B. J. Crosby, Pattie D'Arcy Jones, DeLee Lively, Frederick B. Owens, and Michael Park. Throughout its run, there were special appearances by many popular singers, including Ben E. King (December 1998),[5] Pam Tillis (April 1999), Gladys Knight (May 1999), Tony Orlando (June 1999), Lou Rawls (April 1999),[6] Gloria Gaynor (August 1999)[7] and Rick Springfield (October 1999).[8] Gladys Knight also appeared in the tour when it played Boston in February 2000,[9] and a production at Caesar's Palace Circus Maximus, Las Vegas in March–June 2000.[10] The final Broadway performance was filmed and later released on DVD in 2001.

It premiered in the West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre on October 1, 1996 and ran through October 1, 1998. Zaks directed and McKneely choreographed, with some of the Broadway cast (Cook, Lively, and Crosby) repeating their roles.[11][12][13]

The Arena Stage in Washington, DC produced the revue, directed by Randy Johnson and choreographed by Parker Esse, opening on April 25, 2014 and running through June 8, 2014.

On February 9, 2014, original cast members Brenda Braxton, Adrian Bailey, DeLee Lively, Frederick Owens, Ken Ard, and Michael Park, Deb Lyons, Darryl Williams, and Ramona Keller reunited for a performance at New York's 54 Below as part of the "54 Sings Series" under direction of Braxton.

The revue was also produced in Argentina by G&C Entertainment, directed by Alejandro Guevara, musical direction by Daniel Landea, vocal coaching by Katie Viqueira and choreographed by Delfina García Escudero. It has its opening at "Teatro La Comedia" on September 7, 2015 through November 19, 2015. The Argentinian Cast includes Belén Cabrera (B.J.), Cristian Centurión (Adrian), Mariano Condoluci (Victor), Emmanuel Degracia (Ken), Daniela Flombaum (Pattie), Diego Jaraz (Michael), Patrissia Lorca (DeLee), Sofía Val (Brenda) and Sebastián Ziliotto (Fred).

In 2016, a production took place in a new season in Buenos Aires, Argentina, directed by Diego Jaraz, musical supervision by Federico Vilas, vocal coching by Katie Viqueira, and choreographed by Delfina Garcia Escudero. It had its opening night at Sala Siranush on May 6, 2016, closing on June 24, 2016. This Argentinian cast included Belén Cabrera (B.J.), Cristian Centurión (Adrian), Mariano Condoluci (Victor), Emmanuel Degracia (Ken), Daniela Flombaum (Pattie), Patricio Wittis (Michael), Patrissia Lorca (DeLee), Sofía Val (Brenda) and Sebastián Ziliotto (Fred). This Argentinian production had 4 ACE Awards nominations, and 7 Hugo Awards nominations.

In 2018, Smokey Joe's Cafe was revived by the original producers, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel and Tom Viertel. The production ran at the Ogunquit Playhouse, Maine, between May 16 to June 9. The production then opened Off-Broadway at Stage 42, with previews from July 6, opening July 22.[14] The show closed on November 4 the same year. Choreography and direction is by Joshua Bergasse, with scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, original vocal arrangements by Chapman Roberts, and orchestrations by Steve Margoshes and Sonny Paladino.[15]


The theatre critic for the magazine Variety, in reviewing the Los Angeles tryout, noted that "the songwriters, director Jerry Zaks and choreographer Joey McKneely don't do enough packaging of the material, don't go far enough taking songs first heard on transistor radios and re-imagining them for the stage...There are a couple of halfhearted attempts at structure. The show opens and closes with the 1974 obscurity "Neighborhood," which suggests this will be a scrapbook of memories."[4]

Ben Brantley, in his review for The New York Times wrote that the revue "is a strangely homogenized tribute to one of popular music's most protean songwriting teams...There has obviously been a decision not to go for literal period nostalgia, so the songs are freed from their distinctive original contexts...Too often, though, the performers are simply singing into space without any ostensible reason for being there."[16]

The theatre critic for The Guardian (London), noted that the London cast consists of "acting singers rather than singing actors, which suits a show where there's almost no acting to be done. Whew - no pesky plot development or subtexts, just a glut of glowing pop tunes...There's no attempt at chronology, or even biography."[12]

According to Peter Marks, reviewing in the Washington Post, the revue "never quite attained smash-hit status," but it made popular the musical fashioned on the existing work of "pop composers already beloved by baby boomers."[17]

Awards and nominations

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1995 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Victor Trent Cook Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Brenda Braxton Nominated
B.J. Crosby Nominated
DeLee Lively Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Jerry Zaks Nominated
Best Choreography Joey McKneely Nominated
1996 Grammy Award Best Musical Show Album Won


  1. ^ Ehren, Christine (2 June 2021). "Smokey Joe's Becomes Longest-Running B'way Musical Revue-". Playbill. Archived from the original on 11 April 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b Stoudt, Charlotte."Review: 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' at El Portal Theatre",L.A. Times, December 16, 2008
  3. ^ "Internet Broadway Database listing, Smokey Joe's Cafe, 3/2/1995 - 1/16/2000", accessed August 24, 2009
  4. ^ a b Taylor, Jonathan (November 17, 1994). "Review: 'Smokey Joe's Cafe'". Variety. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  5. ^ Jones, Kenneth; Simonson, Robert (14 Dec 1998). "Ben E. King to "Stand By" Smokey Joe's Cafe Dec. 15-27". Playbill. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  6. ^ Feldberg, Robert. "Broadway seeks out big names", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin), April 5, 1999, Section: Cue & Jump p. 3
  7. ^ Barron, James. "Public Lives", The New York Times, August 5, 1999, p. B2
  8. ^ Edel, Raymond. "People", The Record (Bergen County, NJ), September 23, 1999, p. A2
  9. ^ "Gladys Knight to star in touring version of 'Smokey Joe's Cafe'", The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA), December 11, 1999, p. 40
  10. ^ Delaney, Joe (17 March 2000). "Knight, company enliven 'Smokey Joe's Cafe'". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  11. ^ Chronology of London Shows, 1996, accessed August 22, 2009
  12. ^ a b Sullivan, Caroline. "First Night: Air Of Nostalgia At Smokey Joe's", The Guardian (London), October 24, 1996, p.2
  13. ^ Benedict, David. "Theatre: Smokey Joe's Cafe Prince of Wales Theatre, London", The Independent (London), October 25, 1996, p. 19
  14. ^ McPhee, Ryan (March 8, 2018). "Smokey Joe's Café Will Return to New York for Summer Off-Broadway Run | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  15. ^ BWW News Desk. "Review Roundup: Ogunquit's Off-Broadway Bound SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE". Retrieved 2018-05-25.
  16. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Theatre Review: 'Smokey Joe's Cafe', The Song's the Thing: A Leiber-Stoller Revue", The New York Times, March 3, 1995, p. C1
  17. ^ Marks, Peter. "'Smokey Joe's Cafe': Same Old Same Oldies", Washington Post, April 12, 2008

External links

This page was last edited on 26 August 2021, at 19:49
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