AISLE SAY Philadelphia


The Songs of Leiber and Stoller
Directed and Choreographed by Ken Ard
The Main Street Theatre
10 South Main Street, Quakertown, PA 18951
Box Office: (215) 536-3545

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

The Main Street Theatre is a Not-for-Profit Theater situated in the heart of Quakertown. An old vaudeville house which has been newly renovated and turned into a working theater, it boasts a spacious brick-floored, art-filled lobby with comfortable chairs and coaches. There are also chairs and tables outside the front of the theater, where people may linger before the show and during intermission. The theater proper itself is rather small but does boast tiny balconies on either side.

"Smokey Joe's Cafe" is a musical revue celebrating the songs of Jerry Stoller and Mike Leiber, the famous rock n' roll songwriting team that gave us hit after hit during the 50's and 60's. The setting for the show is your neighborhood and Smokey Joe's Cafe.

There are three stars in this production; Ken Ard, the Director/Choreographer and Guest Artist, and performers Annette Taylor, and Victor Rodriguez. These three seasoned actor/singers are worth the price of admission.

Mr. Ard, one of the original Broadway cast members of "Smokey Joe's Cafe", "Cats" and "Starlight Express", also maintains a recording career. His single, "Rain", released from his album, "Wet Dreams" on MCA Records was deemed "Club record of the week". As a singer, we can hear that Mr. Ard possesses the smooth textured voice of a true crooner, when he kills us with "Loving You". He is equally adept at dance, moving with a subtle grace. His pas de deux with Connie Renda during the song, "Spanish Harlem" is one of the highlights of the evening. As a director he has kept this large 15 member cast of mostly young, unseasoned performers moving at a lively pace. And his choreography (though he might have borrowed here and there from the original production) is cute, clever and at times downright hilarious (as in the men's number, "Little Egypt".)

Ms. Taylor is a wailer who is also a wonderful actress. When she takes the stage, clear the decks, because make no mistake, she is in command. In number after number, such as "Kansas City", "Fools Fall in Love", "I'm a Woman", "Hound Dog" and "Saved", she awes us with her virtuosity. Ms. Taylor also boasts a recording career, being featured on many dance records including Club 69's "Sugar Pie Guy" and Reggie Rough's "I'm Not Going to Take It". Her single, "I Don't Love You, but I Like You" hit the top 30's on the Billboard Dance music Chart. Currently she is working with Mr. Ard on a one woman show.

Victor Rodriguez is a curious combination. On the one hand he has a killer tenor plus the style and charm to go with it, and on the other, he has the timing of a great comedian. Put them all together and you have a funny actor who can sing his pants off. Mr. Rodriguez all but chews up the scenery to the great delight of the audience while Ms. Taylor wails "Hound Dog" in one of the funniest moments in the show. Another high point is when Mr. Rodriguez takes stage and sings, "I Who Have Nothing". On the whole the rest of the cast possesses good voices but lacks the personal charisma to go with them -- with a few minor exceptions, such as Colleen Harris who sings with a lot of heart and Shelby Sours who infuses her numbers with personality.

The Main Street Theatre's season runs through the summer until December 16th. Running now is "The Sound of Music" through August 4th, with "Godspell" to follow August 8th through the 25th. For tickets call the box office at: (215) 536-3545 or log onto Main Street Theatre's Website.

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