The hottest ticket on the theater scene is "Smokey Joe's Café," the musical revue of pop oldies onstage at the Sonnentag Theatre at the IceHouse in Mount Dora. The show's regular run was sold out by opening weekend, but the theater has a wait list and may add performances.
If you want to see "Smokey Joe's," get on that wait list: Darlin Barry, the theater's managing artistic director, announced before a recent matinee, it is already 150 names long. If you're a fan of the work of songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, you should want to see this show. The Sonnentag has put together a snazzy, fun-filled stroll through some of the biggest hits of the 1950s and '60s.
As in many smaller theaters, the sound system doesn't always rise to the level of the production's other aspects. Sound can be fuzzy or have that tinny echo effect that occasionally comes from microphones. But any distortion didn't seem to bother a packed house as they clapped along, tapped their toes and swayed their heads to the sounds of "Yakety Yak," "On Broadway" and "Love Potion #9."
If, like me, these songs are before your time, you'll be amazed by how many classic hits the duo wrote. Helping move rhythm-and-blues into the pop mainstream, Leiber and Stoller struck an enduring chord with America. When "Smokey Joe's Café" debuted on Broadway in 1995, decades after they hit their peak, it ran for nearly five years.
The show is a true revue. There's no narration, no character arcs, no attempt to present the music chronologically. The Sonnentag production gives the singers an appropriately flashy set, designed by David Clevinger — curtains of sparkly silver streamers turn pink, blue and violet under the lights.
Myles Thoroughgood's choreography isn't daring, but catches the eye and is perfectly suitable for a trip down memory lane. The costumes by Sharon Siegrist and Barry take in everything from glamorous gowns to the black-and-white striped shirts of "Jailhouse Rock."
Several of the good-natured cast members are professional entertainers at local theme parks or on cruise ships. "Smokey Joe's Café" doesn't call for much acting, but all the singers interpret the songs with style.
Melissa Vasquez and E. Mani Cadet bring twinkling chemistry to the classic motif of a scoundrel being put in his place by his tough-talking woman on "Hound Dog." They both also have pipes: Vasquez shines on a torchy "Fools Fall in Love," Cadet an impassioned "I (Who Have Nothing)."
Other standout moments: Desiree Perez flounces with her bright-red boa during a sassy "Don Juan," Laurie Sullivan shows off her dance moves in "Teach Me How to Shimmy" and Bryan Demond Williams leads a rousing "Stand By Me."
This "Café" is worth a trip — if you can score a ticket.
'Smokey Joe's Café'
• What: Sonnentag Theatre production of the musical revue highlighting the songs of Lieber and Stoller
• Length: 2 hours, including intermission
• Where: Sonnentag Theatre at the IceHouse, 1100 N. Unser St., Mount Dora
• When: Regular performances through Feb. 16 are sold out. The theater is planning to schedule additional shows; call to join the waiting list.
• Tickets: $20; $18 seniors; $15 students; $10 children
• Call: 352-383-4616
• Online: icehousetheatre.com
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