I try hard not to overstate. I really do. But here’s my problem: it may seem like I’m overstating when I am actually understating.
So let’s get this out of the way: The Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre’s production of “Smokey Joe’s Café: the Songs of Leiber & Stoller” is sensational, laugh-out-loud, tap-your-feet entertainment for all ages brought to you by choreographer Christina Lazo, musical director Sierra Dee, and a cast possessing spectacular talent. Sexy, sassy and stirring, the show takes the audience on an exhilarating roller coaster ride that puts a bounce in one’s step for days after.
“Smokey Joe's Café is a nostalgic taste of the classic music by Leiber and Stoller from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” says Dominic Lessa (Michael). “For some, it will be a walk down memory lane. For others, it's a look through a keyhole to the past.”
Though Leiber and Stoller may not be household names, their music is well-known and much-loved, including such popular songs as Hound Dog, Kansas City, Poison Ivy, Jailhouse Rock, Yakety Yak, Love Potion No. 9, Stand by Me, Spanish Harlem, and On Broadway.
“’I’m a Woman’ is my favorite song and scene because it’s extremely empowering,” says KC Dela Cruz (DeLee). “It’s a reminder that women can do anything. It also helps that the women in this cast are powerhouses so you can hear our message all the way to the back of the house.”
Smokey Joe’s Café, the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history, hits the stage at the Firehouse Arts Center in downtown Pleasanton on Saturday, April 27. Additional performances are on April 28, and May 3-5 and 10-12. Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., with two additional matinees on Saturdays May 4 and 11.
“Smokey Joe's Café depicts the music that was floating around my house when I was a boy. My nine older siblings were in junior high and high school at the time, and this was the beat of their drum,” says Chris Poston (Fred). “I'm grateful to be working as the senior member of the cast, and offering my contribution to the play from the life and times I lived and witnessed in music during the era of the ‘50s. This production has given me a sense of refreshment in my senior years.”
The cast is composed of four women and five men who, singly and in varying configurations, bring to life a captivating musical scrapbook of Americana.
“Smokey Joe’s offers an intimate, fun jazz club/cabaret-style setting with the singing and entertainment nonstop, and is a show for the audience to relax and have a good time,” says Vida Mae Fernandez (Brenda). “My favorite scene is when Tanika Baptiste (B.J.) sings ‘Fools Fall in Love.’ She bares her all in humility and vulnerability, but does not deny who she has become. It's an earnest moment and an extremely personal song for anyone who's been hurt and is able to love again.
“Singing along and dancing along are highly encouraged,” she adds. “This is a show that you'll want to move to, and seeing our audience move with us brings so much joy.”
While Smokey Joe’s Café is mostly a feel-good, high-octane celebration, there are moments that are heartbreaking and beautiful, notably “I (Who Have Nothing)” and “Pearl’s a Singer.”
“Whether you’re dealing with loss, love or desire, there are others who are going through the same thing,” says Dave Abrams (Ken). “Smokey Joe's has a song for each of these topics interspersed with songs that will make you laugh up a lung and simply feel good. It is a show that is appropriate for everyone. Bring the entire family. Take that special someone to see this show. Tell your boss to take a day off and treat the company to an evening of live music and dance. You won't regret it!”
Additionally, tickets, $19-$41, make terrific Mother’s Day or early Father’s Day and graduation gifts.
“Smokey Joe’s Café is a nonstop party,” says Baptiste. “I hope attendees leave feeling inspired to connect and check in with their loved ones, friends and community. We are all we have, and we are all connected. Together we are strong. We each bring something wonderful, magical and divine to the table.”
Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre, now in its 35th season, is a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to providing affordable, top-quality theater, along with theatrical training, to the East Bay Area.
In the words of The T (yes, that’s his name), "That ain't no freight train that you hear, it's just us chugging at high speed through an era of great music!”