Smokey Joe's Cafe: A Musical Celebration
This Friday, the Main Stage at Santa Monica College's Theater Arts Building will be showing Smokey Joe’s Cafe, a rock-and-roll musical commemorating songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Both have written and produced with legendary musicians such as Elvis Presley, The Drifters, and Ben E. King. “Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were legends and basically created the genre of Rock-and-Roll and R&B. This is the genesis of newer pop and rock stars, basically paying them tribute,” said director Perviz Sawoski.
This whimsical production illuminates the main stage with a harmonious group of actors, singers, and dancers gyrating to hits like “Hound Dog”, “There Goes My Baby” and “Stand By Me”. A large variation of costume alternations ranging from zoot suits, sock hop dresses, and jail house wear are wonderfully arranged as performers danced with big swirls, whirls, kicks and twist. “At one level it is a celebration of their music. At another level it is a journey for the audience, from naivete or youth or innocence to something more mature something wiser and more experience,” said Sawoski.
Leiber, born in 1933, was the son of two Jewish immigrants from Poland. He was on the outskirts of Baltimore’s black ghetto. Stoller, also born in 1933, was raised in Queens, N.Y. and learned the sound and rhythm of blues from his days at summer camp. The two ended up meeting in Los Angeles, in 1950, and began composing songs. “They were very young and Elvis’s manager booked them to write songs. Elvis liked their material and they ended up writing a lot of songs for Elvis like 'Jail House Rock,' 'Hound Dog,' and 'Treat Me Nice," said Sawoski.
The production has already hit the stage, starting on Thurs. Oct 4. Its a fun, delightful, and entertaining musical. This is a musical celebration that not only commemorates the legacy of old Rock-n-Roll and R&B, but it also celebrates the sound of today's music, which was influenced by songwriters like Leiber and Stoller. “I grew up listening to this music. The concept of it being a stage concert was really cool. Elvis, The Drifters, and Etta James, gives us a sense of going back in time with that generation,” said actor Elizabeth Orellana.
All aspects of the performance work together as a whole composition. The background images emotionally travel from scene to scene capturing the tone and rhythm of each melody. The lighting colors decorate the stage in congruence to the performer’s choreography, costume, and sound. A live quartet plays 40 composition pieces through out the night with tremendous gusto and spirit. “This is 40 songs and every song is choreographed and has to perfect. What looks effortless on stage takes rehearsals over and over again to get to this point,” said Sawoski.
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Smokey Joe’s Cafe will be preformed live from Fri. Oct. 12 through Sun. Oct. 14. On Friday Smokey Joe’s Cafe will have a guest appearance by Stroller himself. “He lives in LA and so we invited him. He’s coming the 13th, the second weekend and we’ll introduce him to the audience,” said Sawoski.
General admission cost is $20 but students and seniors receive a discounted price of $17.