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Review: SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE at The Muny

The Muny presents the songs of Leiber and Stoller.

By: Jul. 27, 2021
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Review: SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE at The Muny  Image

July 26, 2021 - The Muny in St. Louis' Forest Park opened it 103rd season with a performance of Smokey Joe's Cafe on Monday evening with a near capacity crowd. Smokey Joe's Cafe was Broadway's longest running musical revue and features 39 songs written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller including Stand by Me, Poison Ivy, Jail House Rock and Spanish Harlem.

There are several reasons to return to The Muny and see Smokey Joe's Cafe. First, the cast is dynamic. Second, the band, led by music director/conductor Abdul Hamid Royal provides accompaniment that is first-rate. Third, the set decoration is absolutely stunning. Fourth, there are moments in this production that simply shine, especially when Lieber and Stoller's well know hits are performed.

Before you go, understand that Smokey Joe's Café is a simple musical revue. The music stands alone without support of a book or story. During the times when lesser known songs are delivered the show can become mundane. To overcome the lack of story, The Muny has assembled a charismatic and talented cast who support one another as an adept ensemble. From the first notes sung it was obvious that this talented group of singers would provide exceptional vocals with tight harmonies. What you don't see coming is the juggernaut that is Tiffany Mann. Ms. Mann is a vocal powerhouse who owns the stage. She, and her gospel-like voice, take you to church with each song she delivers. It was obvious during the curtain call on opening night that her work stood out among this incredibly talented ensemble. The remainder of the cast includes Charl Brown, Michael Campayno, Mykal Kilgore, Hayley Podschun, Dee Roscioli, Christopher Sams, Nasia Thomas, and Jason Veasey and all deliver stellar vocal performances.

Edward E. Haynes, Jr's. set design is a nod to St. Louis' historic Gaslight Square. The set transports the audience to the late 1950's and early 1960's. He has created a set that is both nostalgic and beautiful. This gorgeous set design, with its attention to detail, is reminiscent of Roundabout Theater Company's Tony Award winning set design for the 2016 revival of She Loves Me.

Smokey Joe's Cafe is an entertaining offering to open the new season at The Muny. The show is sponsored by Ameren, and runs now through August 1. To purchase tickets, visit Metrotix.com or The Muny Box Office in Forest Park.

Up next at The Muny is The Sound of Music, sponsored by Edward Jones, from August 3-9, 2021. For more information visit muny.org.



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