'SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE' Seduction is big part of production
The men played drunks and other misfits -- but kept it comical and upbeat.
By L. CROW
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown Playhouse was rockin' and rollin', cheering and whistling to opening night of "Smokey Joe's Caf & eacute;."
Despite a Friday the 13th gremlin that played havoc with the sound system, the large audience didn't seem to care. It was having too much fun.
This fast moving musical review presented by a cast whose energy just went right off the Richter scale kept the crowd dancing in their seats. The exuberance of this show was downright infectious.
The detail that went into this production was magnificent. The four women have mastered the art of being seductive, '50s-style, back in the days when flirting was fun and innocent. Those little glances, the coy smiles, the sexy body movements, every little nuance was perfectly timed as they sang and danced to songs that put the men in their place.
Liz, dressed in a gorgeous black glitzy dress with a huge red feather boa, had a twinkle in her eye as she sang about dumping her man, "Don Juan," once his money was gone. Craig begged Martha to "Treat Me Nice," but she didn't buy it, and told him he was nothin' but a "Hound Dog," bringing cheers from the audience. Rita's powerful voice filled the room as she sang about a woman whose dreams didn't come true. And Kathy had every fiber of her shaggy white dress shaking as she taught us how to shimmy.
They joined forces to strut their stuff in "I'm a Woman." The beautiful, sensuous costumes from the original Broadway production, coupled with the women's brilliant expressiveness, made their presence onstage absolutely voluptuous. You go, girls!
Now, the guys, well, that was a different story. They were the drunks, the clowns, the screw-ups and the ones who ended up in jail, but in a most delightful and comical way.
Director David Jendre's synchronized choreography was often reminiscent of The Temptations but also had some unique twists. The head rolls in "Little Egypt" had the house in laughter. "On Broadway" was one of the best group numbers for the men, their silver suits, the lighting, the dancing -- the audience clapped and cheered for this one well before it ended. The guys did some comical dancing and scratching as they sang about a woman they couldn't get rid of, called "Poison Ivy."
Craig did a great rendition of "D.W. Washburn," a gutter wino who gets saved by a religious group. Then Russell got drunk on "Love Potion No. 9," after he lost his girl. Josh showed off his deep, rich voice as he told Liz "You're the Boss," (but she already knew that), and Kyle ended up in "Jailhouse Rock," joined by the company, in an energetic number in black and white stripes.
Byron closed the show with his beautiful "Stand by Me," joined by the rest of the company, as the crowd gave this cast a standing ovation.
In fact, the audience wasn't quiet at all during the performance. There were hoots and hollers, whistles and cheers throughout the show. If you're looking for a placid evening, this isn't it. But if you need to get your blood circulating, come to "Smokey Joe's Caf & eacute;."
XIt runs weekends through May 29. For tickets, call (330) 788-8739.