Smokey Joe’s Cafe – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Ironically one of America’s greatest song writing teams almost didn’t make it to the platter recording gate. Only one partner was eager to write current best selling hits. As the story goes, Jerry Leiber has been accused of convincing his soulmate Mike Stoller into becoming a songwriter, something Stoller was not anxious to become. Whatever Jerry said, that unique partnership lasted for six decades, with Jerry as the witty lyricist and Mike as the talented composer. Along the way, they helped a little unknown singer named Elvis Presley find his voice, gifting him with tunes like “Loving You” and “Jailhouse Rock.” Rock and roll was their forte and humor was often their trademark, although rhythm and blues crept into their extensive repertoire.

This producing partnership wrote “Hound Dog” for Big Mama Thornton and a string of R and B tunes for Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon and Floyd Dixon. Almost three dozen of their greatest hits are on display until Sunday, July 31 at The Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton as it presents “Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller” for your summer listening pleasure.

As the architects of rock and roll, Leiber and Stoller knew no rivals. If you’re looking for a good time that ping pongs back and forth from snappy sizzle to mellow yellow, then “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is the perfect place to park yourself for a musical interlude. A cast of nine is perfectly poised and polished to light up the skies with hits from the musical pens of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Turn up the heat for this retrospective of hits that are reminiscent of decades ago as Joseph Castro, Elvie Ellis, Debra Thais Evans, Tiffany Frances, Cameron Loyal, Sandra Marante, Gabriella Saramago, Warren Nolan, Jr. and Cartreze Tucker swing and sway and shimmy into rhythmic magic land with such numbers as “Dance With Me,” “Searchin’,” “On Broadway,” “Yakety Yak,” and “I’m A Woman.” They will tickle your fancy with their comic twists performing “Poison Ivy,” “Don Juan,” “D. W. Washburn,” and “Love Potion #9.” Elvis will enter the building as they blast out “Hound Dog,” “Treat Me Nice,” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

You’ll love the verbal Valentine of “Falling,” the fun of the dancing in “Teach Me How To Shimmy” and the power of “Stand By Me.” Their invitation to “Dance With Me” will be too hard to resist, while you might be tempted to confess and repent just to be ”Saved.” No matter what the mood or tempo, this lively group will wrap you up with a slithery pink scarf as they dance and sing. They’ve got all the right moves and you might enjoy finding yourself on your feet on stage helping them along the way.

For tickets ($55, seniors $50, students $25 with half price tickets on Thursdays after 6 p.m. if available), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.,Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. With proof of vaccination, masks are optional. A Summer Cabaret Series will begin on Monday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m with the cast of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” crooning Sounds of the Seventies, produced and directed by Schuyler Beeman. Tickets are $35.

Let the mighty spirit move you as you take a musical journey along this friendly and famous road paved by the good works of Leiber and Stoller. Discover first hand why Leiber and Stoller have been called the Rodgers and Hammerstein of Rock and Roll.