Music & Lyrics by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
Directed & Choreographed by Kevyn Morrow
Musical Direction by Corinne Aquilina
Florida Studio Theatre’s Keating Mainstage
1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, 914-366-9000
Oct. 31, 2012 through Jan. 3, 2013

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

Smokey Joe’s Café has to be a classic template for all scriptless revues of two partners’ songs crossing all genres. It is certainly the best of Florida Studio Theatre’s past offerings of its kind and seems even more lustrous in this reissue. Designer April Soroko’s  blue-lit backdrop of a full-sounding four piece band elevated behind a scrim, fronted by a series of panels picturing a city alive at night, sets the Act I scene. Though not particularly colorful, the effect is to show off the nine toe-tapping singers costumed by Lynda Salsbury in all shades and textures of splash with shiny accessories.  The panels also slide to change parts of the scene and, with Jeffrey Cady’s appropriate lighting, sometimes serve to narrow it or permit choreographic variations. Act II opens up the upstage space, with the titled sign in neon just over the bandstand and a few café tables and chairs flanking the central and downstage area.
Performers present drama in the revue solely through gesture and their interpretation of lyrics.  If there are stand-outs, it’s due to the quality of the lyrics or demands of vocalization and choreography in individual numbers. Particularly impressive with all three is Arthur W. Marks. He’s unbeatably romantic singing to and with Allyson Kaye Daniel.  Impressive belting out solos: Lianne Marie Dobbs. I particularly liked the guys ‘‘Standing on the Corner‘‘ and putting down the gal “Poison Ivy.“  Besides Marks, they are James Harkness, Jason Veasey, Devin Roberts, and Thomas Rainey. Brittany Avey does a mean Shimmy, while no one can drape herself around a red feather boa,  song and corresponding movement like Karen Burthwright. Among the few nice surprises are variations on Elvis Presley hits, Country favorites, and Soul.  Ryan Kilcourse’s sound design, however, is typical of FST’s loud mic-ing. Lynda Salsbury’s costuming, I repeat, is sumptuous. Keeping on-track the many changes adds to Production Stage Manager Kelli Karen’s typical accomplishments over a full two hours.

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