Rachel Moore and Kent Navarrette sing, dance through SMC’s Smokey Joe’s Cafe
A rock-and-roll themed jukebox musical taking place at the Santa Monica College (SMC) Theatre Arts Building (Fri. Oct. 12 to Sun. Oct. 14), "Smokey Joe’s Cafe" features the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Both Leiber and Stoller have written songs for all-time great artists including Elvis Presley, Cher, and others. Two "Smokey Joe’s Cafe" performers, sophomore Rachel Moore and junior Kent Navarrette, highlight some of the show’s top musical numbers such as "Teach Me How To Shimmy," "Kansas City," and "Joe House Rock."
Moore, an 18-year-old theater major with a focus in acting, sings "Falling" and has a dance number in "Teach Me How To Shimmy." “It’s really a feel good show,” she said of the 1950s musical.
Growing up in Topanga Canyon, California, Moore home-schooled to primarily focus on dancing and acting. A shy belly dancer from the age of five, she took up intense acting at 10 years-old. Her experiences at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon shaped a passion for theater arts and helped her gain confidence. “Starting out, I had teachers who really saw something in me,” she said.
While reading a monologue from "Joan of Arc, Henry the 6th Part 2" as a freshman, Moore affirmed her desires to pursue theater for years to come. She said, “I got so into the story that I realized all the other crap doesn’t matter. It’s all about telling your story and understanding the character.” Having an introverted personality as a child suddenly felt “funny” to Moore, as she described it. “That was the moment I realized there’s no reason to feel scared.”
At 16, she was in her sophomore year at Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, Calif. She’d been home-schooled her entire life, but decided to try out high school for a few months. Moore quickly realized committing hours of time to class and homework wasn’t for her. So, two weeks into the 2016 school year, she took the high school exit exam and enrolled in winter classes at SMC. Fast forward to the 2018 fall semester, and she’s since found a home in the theater program at SMC. “I’ve bonded with everyone in the department,” she said. “We lift each other up and support each other. It’s an amazing learning environment.”
Navarette shares similar feelings about the program. “I haven’t found a more amazing community of people in my life,” the Elk Grove, California native said.
As a child in Sacramento, California Navarette recalled never lacking self-confidence. “I used to tell kids in kindergarten that I was going to be in movies,” he said. A first-time trip to Los Angeles at five years-old inspired him to dream of pursuing his dreams one day in the big city. “Around the World in 80 Days, starring Jackie Chan, was premiering on Hollywood Boulevard, and after I went to that show I knew I wanted to move to L.A,” he said. Navarette’s acting career began at Studio 24 in Sacramento while he was in middle school and continued during his education at Pleasant Grove High School. He moved to Los Angeles right after high school graduation when he was 18, and entered SMC’s theater department during 2017’s holiday performances.
“Everything I expected to come from my first few years in Los Angeles really materialized,” he said. Navarette found what he so-long aspired for in his brief time at SMC, in friends, a supportive community and theater. Currently 21 years-of-age, he plans to transfer into a Conservatory next year.
Long-term careers in theater entice both Navarette and Moore. For Moore, a life on the east coast is where she believes her future lies. “I’m planning to move to New York and study at different studios,” she said. She’s getting certified as a fitness trainer on-top of acting and dancing, with aspirations of teaching at dance studios.
When it comes to "Smokey Joe’s Cafe," Moore’s favorite performance is the number "Fools Fall in Love," which occurs twice throughout the show. “Love is something people laugh at, it’s cheesy,” said Moore. Navarrete’s top choice is "Joe House Rock," mainly due to the dancing and high powered energy that’s infused into the performance.
Navarette aspires to use his success both on and off-stage to make a difference in the communities he comes from, as an LGBTQ Latino. “Even if the context of the show doesn’t have to do with what my purpose is or what my goals are, to see somebody part of that community doing what they love brings so much more than what words in a play could say,” said Navarette.