Theatre Review: SMOKEY JOE’S CAFE Has St. Louis Meeting Back at The Muny
It felt so good to be back after nearly two years.
The momentum that carried the centennial celebration into the 101st season sadly came to a halt last year, but it was an absolute delight to look upon the newly completed stage with thousands of other musical-loving fans on Monday evening.
Opening the 5-show season is Smokey Joe’s Cafe, a musical revue of songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show is comprised of hits covering a wide array of genres, including “Fools Fall In Love,” “Young Blood,” “Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak,” “Love Potion No. 9,” “On Broadway,” “Stand By Me,” and several others.
The gorgeous set design was meticulously crafted to recreate the look and feel of a timeless Gaslight Square, St. Louis’ own historic entertainment and arts area. Brilliantly constructed buildings interfaced seamlessly with The Muny’s state-of-the-art, high definition video walls. The eye-popping scenic design by Edward E. Haynes, Jr. (The Wiz) and Kendrick Lawson-Knight draws you in from the moment you enter the theatre.
There is much talent on display, with wonderful vocal and dance performances by Charl Brown, Michael Campayno, Mykal Kilgore, Tiffany Mann, Hayley Podschun, Dee Roscioli, Christopher Sams, Nasia Thomas, and Jason Veasey. The show has no dialogue, nor does it follow a standard storyline. Think of it like a concert, yet with several beautiful costume changes and intricate sets. The actors all do a phenomenal job bouncing from song to song, giving it as cohesive a feeling as possible.
Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge, along with Choreographer Josh Walden and Associate Choreographer Karilyn Ashley Surratt, do a tremendous job keeping the show lively and entertaining. The musical stages one captivating musical number after another, with seldom a moment to take your eyes off the stage. It’s truly a delightful experience to behold.
Packed to the brim with hit songs, dazzling dance numbers, and a superbly talented cast, Smokey Joe’s Cafe is a fantastic way to celebrate being back at The Muny. Older audiences who grew up with the songs are sure to enjoy them, and younger audiences will find themselves new fans of the tunes. There’s much to enjoy for the entire family, as we’ve all grown accustomed to at the historic theatre.
Now playing through Aug. 1.