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BWW Reviews: SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE Dazzles Under The Stars

Rhett George, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, T. Oliver Reid and Devin Roberts. Photos by Gaby Quintana, courtesy of Theatre Under The Stars.

SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE: THE SONGS OF LEIBER AND STOLLER is performed at Miller Outdoor Theatre through Sunday July 19, 2015 and produced by TUTS (Theatre Under The Stars).

SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE, a tribute to songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was nominated for 7 Tony awards in 1995 and won a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album in 1996. I was fortunate enough to be able to catch this wondrous production by TUTS at the Miller Outdoor Theatre on Wednesday evening.

As the sun settled and stars emerged, the audience at Miller Outdoor Theatre was pulled into a world of fun musical standards and stellar performances. As if to spite the summer heat, an intermittent cool breeze brushed over us, as the company opened the show.

The show was packed full of fun, memorable music, and outstanding performances by a powerhouse cast. The costumes and set were adorned with hues of dark reds, purples, and blues. The set was simple with only chairs, tables, moving walls, and fire escapes. An elaborate brightly lit sign that read Smokey Joe's Cafe flew in from overhead, and the band supported the show from up-stage center.

Brooke Wilson, Tracee Beazer, Vanessa Sonon
and Carrie Compere. Photos by Gaby Quintana,
courtesy of Theatre Under The Stars.

After the company's opening number, T. Oliver Reid started us off with "Young Blood". He played each of his scenes with honesty and moved audiences during romantic numbers like "Love Me/Don't". He pulled the audience in with his smooth tone and rockin' vocals, and seemed to do it with ease. Reid rounded out the night with the crowd-pleaser, "Stand By Me". Rhett George's voice flowed like silk through the audience. He shined during "Loving You" and "Spanish Harlem". In his suit and microphone in hand, George led the show center stage during the Smokey Joe's Cafe scenes in Act II. Devin L. Roberts had the most energy of the evening. Heads turned during his performance of "Treat Me Nice" and people watched in a silent awe during his soulful runs in falsetto during "I (Who Have Nothing)". Carrie Compere knocked it out of the park with "Fools Fall In Love" and her performance stirred audiences to cheer the loudest that night during the reprise.The performers came on stage for each song and told a story within a vignette, and conveyed the emotions, wants, and desires that any well-rounded and complex character should have in a show. Despite the show being a revue, there was plenty of narrative to keep audiences engaged. Also, it being a revue served as an advantage to the actors, as they were able to feed off the audience directly and interact with them.

Rhett George, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, T. Oliver Reid,
Harris Milgrim and Devin Roberts.
Photos by Gaby Quintana,
courtesy of Theatre Under The Stars.

The choreography, by Director Michelle Gaudette, was memorable, especially during my two favorite songs of the night: "There Goes My Baby" and "Love Potion #9". When the band members each had their moment to shine with a solo, the saxophonist swooned the audience. The night was completed with a well-deserved standing ovation from a more-than-satisfied crowd. This is a fun spectacle that you don't want to miss.

SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE: THE SONGS OF LEIBER AND STOLLER is performed at Miller Outdoor Theatre at 8:15pm on July 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19, 2015. The show is produced by TUTS (Theatre Under The Stars).

Words and Music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

Directed and Choreographed by Michelle Gaudette

Starring Tracee Beazer, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Carrie Compere, Rhett George, Harris Milgrim, T. Oliver Reid, Devin L. Roberts, Vanessa Sonon, and Brooke Wilson

For ticket information, please visit:

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