The Hot Musical of the Summer – Smokey Joe’s Cafe!

Smokey Joe’s Cafe!
Brunswick Little Theatre is on fire with Smokey Joe’s Cafe, the hot musical of the Summer
Story by: lisa stites
Good rhythms, beautiful harmonies and familiar songs we love to hear — it’s all part of Brunswick Little Theatre’s summer musical.

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is a musical revue showcasing 39 pop standards from the late 50s and early 60s, including rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues songs written by songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
The show’s hit list includes such favorites as “Young Blood,” “Kansas City,” “Fools Fall in Love,” “Poison Ivy,” and “Treat Me Nice.” The show also pays homage to some of the music industry’s greatest singers, with “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “I’m a Woman” and “Stand By Me.” Novelty songs such as “Yakety Yak” and”Charlie Brown” are also featured.
Director Cal Chiang said this music helped define an era and musical director Michael Stringer said this musical revue is something that everyone will like.
“It’s got the nice ballads, rock ‘n’ roll, gospel, novelty songs…it’s a broad spectrum of stuff. It’s songs we all know, but they’re different from each other,” Stringer said.
The cast features 10 powerhouse singers who are no strangers to the stage in one form or another. Some of the singers have appeared in other Brunswick Little Theatre (BLT) productions. Some are new to the BLT stage but have experience with other theaters, bands, Brunswick County’s own Sea Notes Choral Society and even barbershop quartet.
“The talent is amazing,” Chiang said. “They’re doing really fantastic harmonies, which also defined the music of this era.”
When he first saw the show performed on Broadway, Chiang said he knew it was a show he wanted to do one day.
“It plays to what I like to do — staging music and choreography,” he said.
His favorite number is the opening one, called “Neighborhood.” He said it sets the tone, giving a feeling of life in the city, in the old neighborhood.
“It’s the city culture. We’ve kind of lost that,” Chiang said.
Chiang and Stringer partnered to bring “Shrek” to the stage last summer. Chiang said Stringer has a great sense of rock ‘n’ roll and of jazz, understands the music of this show very well and is helping the actors understand it too.
Stringer said that he started rehearsals by working with the singers and the musicians separately before bringing them together. Stringer started his work in musical theater with a production of “My Fair Lady” when he was 16 and has been involved with 80 productions over the years.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s fun for me. I like the process, beginning with nothing, starting to craft it and seeing it come together You take nothing and make something out of it.”
Chiang said the music of this show will make the older audiences reminiscent and will expose some of the younger audiences to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. Stringer said the revue was a chance to draw in audiences who might not be familiar with musical theater, or with theater in general.
“We did “Shrek” last year, and “Into the Woods” before that, and that’s a different vibe,” Stringer said. “If they come to something more accessible, they might branch out a little. We’d also like to get larger audiences for the plays, and if they come out to see something like this….
“I think it’s a good way to expose people to live theater it’s not intimidating,” he said. “It’s very accessible. The songs are familiar and they’ll enjoy it. Once you get people in the theater, they might come back.”
The show runs June 15-18 and 22-25. Show times are 7:30 for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows and 3 p.m. For the Sunday shows. Tickets are $20 for adults and $12 for students and are available at BrunswickLittleTheatre.com.

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