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Monday, March 18,2013

This 'Cafe' serves golden oldies

Riverwalk Theatre salutes the music of rock legends Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

by Christopher Horb

Thursday, Feb. 15 — “Hound Dog.” “Poison Ivy.” “Stand By Me.” Since the dawn of the rock-n-roll era, few songwriting duos have had as much of an impact or left a greater legacy than Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the writers whose music is showcased in Riverwalk Theatre's revue “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” 

The musical opens Thursday.  The Feb. 16 and 17 performances are officially sold out, although the Riverwalk box office says there may be a few tickets available at curtain time.

Hope Rollins and Diane Spicer share directorial duties for a show they see as not only a chance to entertain audiences but to educate them as well.

“It’s really amazing how many songs we know by heart that were written by them,”  Rollins said.  “A lot of people don’t realize that Leiber and Stoller were behind all these compositions.”

Lyricist Leiber and composer Stoller were instrumental in helping R & B crossover into mainstream popularity, a process that began in the 1950s with such classics as “Kansas City.”  In 1985, the men were inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of  Fame and in 1987 The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

“Cafe” features no unifying theme, putting the music in center stage. Over 30 songs written or co-written by the pair form the heart of the show.
The revue opened on Broadway in 1995 under the direction of stage veteran Jerry Zaks; it ran for over 2,000 performances. It was nominated for multiple Tony awards, including best musical, and the show album was awarded a Grammy for best musical show album in 1996.

“This is such a big, heavy show – It’s so complex and involving,” Spicer said.  “It’s a lot of singing and a lot of dancing.  It’s just a lot of energy.”

The Riverwalk cast includes singers Lucas Holliday, Quentin Pannell, Zurich Dawson, Martin Kasprzak, Rebecca Lane, AnnaMaria Horn, Racheal Raymer, Hattie Inese Rutledge, Zakiya Williams, Shantel Hamilton, LaVon Sherrod, Daniel Shafer and Mariah Bell, alongside dancers Tonya Hardy, Janice Rogers, Bonita Smith, Derrick Harris, Todd Bradley, Brittany Cook, Tess Michell, Chantelle Henry, Paul William Garrett III; Hamilton and Rutledge perform in both capacities.

The songs may be golden oldies, but Spicer feels the musical is more than just an ode to days gone by: “This show speaks to any decade.  It will stand the test of time.” 

'Smokey Joe's Cafe'
Riverwalk Theatre
Through Feb. 26
7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (Feb. 16 and 17 shows are sold out, although there may be last-minute tickets available)
$20 adults; $18 students, seniors, military personnel
(517) 482-5700
www.riverwalktheatre.com

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