Smokey Joe’s Cafe
Smokey Joe’s Cafe is a jukebox come alive—heaven for fans of 1950s and 1960s pop-rock tunes. This musical tribute to the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller is made up of more than 40 familiar hits, including “Dance With Me,” “Poison Ivy,” “Yakety Yak,” “Hound Dog,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Stand By Me” and “Fools Fall in Love.” This Tony-winning musical is all music, without plot or dialogue. The songs are the stars, and the stories are the personal memories of each listener. The strength of this version by Runaway Stage lies in the energetic performances of the nine singer-dancers, the humor and affection of the song interpretations, the tight six-member backup band, and the audience’s enthusiasm for the music. Gwendel Rodriguez, who has an abundance of both voice and stage presence, is a stand-out performer. But the whole cast is fun to watch, as the members belt out the tunes, do-wop, and frolic with one another.
There are a few glitches: The cast members are better singers than dancers, they have more zest than polish, and they have to deal with a sucky sound system. Nonetheless, this cafe is worth a visit.