Jay Adriel, Austin Colby & More Join Cast of Arena Stage's SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE


Jay Adriel, Austin Colby & More Join Cast of Arena Stage's SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE

Smokey Joe's Café-The Songs of Leiber and Stoller transports audiences to the golden age of rock, rhythm and blues this spring at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Director Randy Johnson returns to Arena Stage following the success of A Night with Janis Joplin (which enjoyed two runs at Arena Stage followed by a subsequent run on Broadway) to helm this Grammy Award-winning tribute to legendary songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, which originally opened on Broadway in 1995 and became the longest running musical revue, topping 2,000 performances. Bursting with hit tunes including "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Stand by Me," "Love Potion #9" and "On Broadway," Smokey Joe's Café showcases choreography by Parker Esse (Arena Stage's The Music Man, Oklahoma!) and music direction by Victor Simonson (Center Stage's A Civil War Christmas, Arena Stage's 3 Mo' Divas) and runs April 25-June 8, 2014 in the Fichandler Stage.

The production features the previously announced Tony Award winner Levi Kreis (Broadway's Million Dollar Quartet) and Helen Hayes Award winners E. Faye Butler (Arena Stage's Pullman Porter Blues, Oklahoma!) and Nova Y. Payton (Signature Theatre's Dreamgirls, Hairspray). They are joined by D.C.-area performers Jay Adriel, Austin Colby, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Michael J. Mainwaring, Stephawn P. Stephens and Kara-Tameika Watkins.

"Smokey Joe's Café is a foot-stomping celebration of Leiber and Stoller's treasured songbook," shares Artistic Director Molly Smith. "I'm thrilled to welcome back our dear friend Randy Johnson and also the marvelously versatile cast he has assembled. I'm sure they will raise the roof in bringing these timeless tunes to life."

"When Molly called and asked to me direct Smokey Joe's Café, I didn't even let her finish the sentence-it was going to be a 'yes!,'" says Johnson. "I am so happy to be directing my friend Mike Stoller's classic musical, and it's very fitting that my next theatrical venture-after my recent Broadway debut as a director and playwright with A Night with Janis Joplin-is at Arena Stage. It's wonderful to be back in D.C. at my theatrical 'home,' where I've felt incredibly supported and nurtured."

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Words and Music) began their songwriting partnership in 1950 upon discovering that they had the same passion for Boogie Woogie and the Blues. If they had written no other song but Hound Dog, the names of Leiber and Stoller would still have been indelibly written in the history of popular music. However, as Smokey Joe's Café makes abundantly clear, they didn't start or stop there. In fact, Leiber and Stoller's contributions as songwriters and record producers have been so monumental that it is impossible to envision what American popular music would be like today without them. Their songs have been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, The Coasters, Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Esther, Amos Milburn, Charles Brown, Little Willie Littlefield, Bull Moose Jackson, Linda Hopkins, Ray Charles, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thorton, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, James Brown, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Bill Haley and the Comets, Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Johnny Mathis, Count Basie, John Mellencamp, Lou Rawls, Tom Jones, Edith Piaf, Bobby Darin, Peggy Lee, Chet Atkins, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, B.B. King, Otis Redding and literally hundreds more.

Randy Johnson (Director) recently made his Broadway debut as playwright and director for A Night with Janis Joplin, which previously ran at Arena Stage in 2012 and 2013. Randy is a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Theatre in Los Angeles. For the past 25 years, he has written, directed and produced some of the most original, groundbreaking and landmark events in the business. Select theater credits include producer of the West Coast premiere of The Normal Heart starring Richard Dreyfuss and Kathy Bates; original producer of Always Patsy Cline; and writer and director of The Wildest-The Music of Louis Prima and Keely Smith, published by Samuel French Inc. As the writer and director of Conway Twitty-the Man, the Music, the Legend, Randy also co-conceived and directed Elvis the Concert, which premiered at Radio City Music Hall. Elvis the Concert is in the Guinness Book of World Records as "the most successful rock tour performed by a deceased artist." Randy has directed in regional theaters nationwide and in Canada and staged and directed Pope Benedict's most recent appearance in New York. Other work includes directing Katharine Hepburn in a PBS documentary on the life of Jimmy Stewart; Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (director/co-writer) and Carly Simon's concert A Miracle on 125th Street at The Apollo Theatre in 2007. For PBS and DVD: Carly Simon-A Moonlight Serenade Aboard the Queen Mary. He is a member of Dramatists Guild, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and Canadian Actors Equity as a director. For his work with AIDS Project Los Angeles, he is a recipient of The Crystal Apple Award.

The cast of Smokey Joe's Café (in alphabetical order)
Jay Adriel's theater credits include Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Dreamgirls (Signature Theatre); Guys and Dolls, Legally Blonde, Hairspray, Hello Dolly, The Producers, Crazy For You, 42nd Street, Cats and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Central Piedmont Community College); Seussical, Aladdin, Peter Pan and Beauty and the Beast (Children's Theatre of Charlotte) and A Chorus Line (Actors Theatre of Charlotte).

E. Faye Butler's previous Arena Stage productions include Pullman Porter Blues, Trouble in Mind, Oklahoma!, Crowns, Ain't Misbehavin, Polk County and Dinah Was. She performed with the Washington Ballet in The Great Gatsby and Blues Until June at the Kennedy Center. National and regional tours include Mamma Mia, Dinah Was, Ain't Misbehavin, Nunsense and Don't Bother Me.... E. Faye has appeared at regional theaters including Signature Theatre, Center Stage, La Jolla Playhouse, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Lincolnshire Theatre, Dallas Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Yale Repertory and Pasadena Playhouse. She is the recipient of six Jeff Awards, three Black Theatre Alliance Awards, an After Dark Award, John Barrymore Award, R.A.M.I. Award, two Helen Hayes Awards and seven nominations, an Excellence in the Arts Award, Ovation Award and the 2011 Sarah Siddons Society Leading Lady Award. In 2012 she was named a Lunt-Fontaine Fellow.

Austin Colby makes his Arena Stage debut. Washington D.C. credits include Signature Theatre (Crossing and Spin), Olney Theatre Center (Cinderella, Spring Awakening and Forever Plaid) and Toby's Dinner Theatre (Hairspray and Legally Blonde). Austin has performed regionally at Cortland Repertory Theatre (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), White Plains Performing Arts Center (Hair) and Papermill Theatre (On The Town, Smokey Joe's Café and Altar Boyz). Austin is a proud graduate of James Madison University where he received a Bachelor of Music, Vocal Music Education Concentration. Upcoming: Signature Theatre (Sunday in the Park with George).

Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, from Ellicott City, MD, makes her Arena Stage debut. She recently performed at the Kennedy Center with the first national tour of Come Fly Away, in which she starred as Kate and was nominated for a 2013 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress. Past performances in New York include The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and Company with the New York Philharmonic. Favorite national tour credits include Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Fosse (Trumpet Soloist, I Gotcha). International credits include Come Fly Away, Trip of Love and Fosse. Television credits include SMASH (NBC Pilot) and special guest appearances on the Tony Awards. Over the past year Ashley has been reconstructing Bob Fosse's work for archival purposes with his daughter, Nicole Fosse, and The Verdon Fosse Estate.

Levi Kreis makes his Arena Stage debut with this production. Levi received the 2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for originating the role of Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet. He is an Outer Critics Circle Award winner, a Drama League Award winner and a Jeff Award nominee. Levi starred as George in the musical One Red Flower, written and directed by Emmy Award winner Paris Barclay, played Roger in Rent (Benny Company) and starred in several films, most notably as Fentin Meeks in Bill Paxton's directorial debut Frailty. As a singer/songwriter, Levi's music has been featured on major TV shows including The Vampire Diaries, Sons of Anarchy and The Apprentice.

Michael J. Mainwaring makes his Arena Stage debut. Michael's Washington area credits include Dreamgirls at Signature Theatre (2012 Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical); In Performance at the Kennedy Center, Shenandoah and Ford's Presidential Gala: An American Celebration at Ford's Theatre; Oliver! at Olney Theatre Center; Thunder Knocking at the Door with Creative Cauldron; and the world premiere of Three Little Birds at Adventure Theatre.

Nova Y. Payton makes her Arena Stage debut. D.C.-area credits include Crossing, The Lost Songs of Broadway: 1970s, Defying Gravity: Making of a SuperNOVA, Dreamgirls (Effie White, 2013 Helen Hayes Award nomination), Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Xanadu and Hairspray (Motormouth Maybelle, 2012 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress) at Signature Theatre; Trav'lin at 1st Stage; Ain't Misbehavin' at Washington Savoyards; Black Nativity at H Street Playhouse; Happy Elf at Adventure Theatre; and the Spring Gala Concert My Fair Lady at the Kennedy Center. Regional credits include Dreamgirls (Effie White, 2006 Barrymore Nominee for Best Lead Actress in a Musical) at Prince Music Theatre and Smokey Joe's Café at Flat Rock Playhouse. National tour credits include 3 Mo' Divas (PBS Special, DVD and CD) and Smokey Joe's Café (BJ).

Stephawn P. Stephens returns to Arena Stage following his debut in Crowns (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Musical) as u/s for Man. Recent performances include Signature Theater's Dreamgirls and Olney Theater Center's Little Shop of Horrors as the voice of Audrey II. Stephawn made his D.C. directorial debut with Theater Alliance's holiday hit Black Nativity. Other regional credits include Round House Theatre's Once On This Island; The Kennedy Center's Barrio Grrrl!, Carmen Jones and Debbie Allen's Soul Possessed featuring Arturo Sandoval and Patty La Belle; and African Continuum Theater Company's Amen Corner and Spunk. He received formal training at Karamu House and Cleveland State University.

Kara-Tameika Watkins returns to Arena Stage after last appearing in Crowns. Additional credits include Dreamgirls (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Musical), Hairspray (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Musical and Ensemble) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Signature Theatre; Camelot and Peter Pan at Olney Theatre Center; Little Shop of Horrors and Children of Eden at Ford's Theatre; Caroline or Change at Studio Theatre; Once on This Island at Roundhouse Theatre; Hairspray at PCLO and North Shore Music Theatre; and the Nevada productions of Hairspray and Smokey Joe's Café.

Led by Simonson on piano, the band for Smokey Joe's Café features James Davis, Jr. (keyboard, Assistant Music Director), George Hummel (tenor and baritone saxophone), Steven Walker (guitar), Dan Hall (bass), Danny Villanueva (percussion) and Carroll Dashiell III (drums).

The creative team for Smokey Joe's Café includes Set & Projection Designer Caite Hevner Kemp, Costume Designer Ilona Somogyi, Lighting Designer Dan Ozminkowski, Sound Designer Carl Casella, Wig Designer Anne Nesmith, Assistant Choreographer Jessica Hartman, Stage Manager Kurt Hall, Assistant Stage Manager Christi B. Spann and Musical Contractor Rita Eggert.

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