Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Hit Parade

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Hit Parade

Article excerpt

Classics from the Leiber and Stoller songbook fill 'Smokey Joe's Cafe'

Chances are that you don't go many days without hearing one of the dozens of hits written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, many of them featured in the long-running hit "Smokey Joe's Cafe."

The titles sound like a mini history lesson in the early days of rock 'n' roll -- "Jailhouse Rock," "On Broadway," "Hound Dog," "Fools Fall in Love," "Kansas City," "Yakety Yak," "Love Potion #9" and "There Goes My Baby," among many others.

The songs topped the charts in the 1950s and '60s and helped lead "Smokey Joe's Cafe" to a five-year run on Broadway from 1995 to 2000. Florida Studio Theatre, which had a successful production of its own in 1998, is bringing the show back to start a new season, and with good reason, said director Kevyn Morrow.

"It's the performers, the music and the timelessness of the music," said Morrow, who has been involved with the show since its Los Angeles tryout before the Broadway opening. "It does take us back initially to an era that we think of as simpler times, but the topics discussed in each of the songs are relevant throughout time."

Morrow, who was most recently seen at FST as a lawyer in David Mamet's "Race," has performed in many productions of "Smokey Joe's" over the years, but is working to create his own version.

"I know the origin of where it started and where it comes from and can avoid the pitfalls of things that were done," he said. But he also knows that there are "only certain kinds of steps that fit the music of that era," which is why some of the moves may closely resemble other productions.

"I'd say 85 to 90 percent is going to be all mine. I told the cast, the rest is inspired by the original production," said Morrow, who performed in the show on Broadway, where he also was seen in "Dreamgirls," "A Chorus Line" and "The Scarlet Pimpernel."

The show features a cast of nine, among them Arthur W. Marks, who returns to FST where he appeared in "That's Life" and "That's Life Again" in the cabaret. This also marks his ninth production of "Smokey Joe's."

It doesn't get boring, he said.

"There are nine people that are the best at their craft. …

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