February 26, 2012 REVIEW: ‘Smoky Joe’s Cafe’ at Derby Dinner Playhouse Let the music take you back in time BY CHARLES WHALEY Local Columnist
CLARKSVILLE — How fabulous it would be if every neighborhood sported a cozy, companionable joint much like Derby Dinner Playhouse’s “Smokey Joe’s Café,” the (Jerry) Leiber and (Mike) Stoller songbook celebration now on the Clarksville stage.
It’s a place where nostalgia jostles with good times, hard-driving romance, male-female contretemps, sexy dancing, and dynamic takes on more than 30 songs by a multi-talented cast of nine.
There’s no story line or dialogue, just song-after-terrifically-sold song on Lee Buckholz’s handsome streetscape set dotted with lamposts and benches. Associate producer Buckholz’s direction keeps things moving at top speed with Heather Paige Folsom’s vigorous choreography and Sharon Murray Harrah’s spot-on costumes ramping up the enjoyment.
And what a song list it is of early rock ‘n’ roll from the ‘50s and ‘60s immortalized by such as Elvis Presley, Dion, the Coasters and the Drifters.
“On Broadway,” that 1963 Drifters hit (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill were collaborators) brought forth an appreciative howl of recognition as spiffy Alonzo Richmond, Lem Jackson, Christian Bradford and Lamont O’Neal, dressed in black and white and wearing shades, resurrected the era as they tapped, blended voices and postured.
Then there was force-of-nature Willie Illeana Kirven blasting out “Hound Dog” as a latter-day Big Mama Thornton, shoving aside thoughts of Elvis. “The Pelvis,” however, got a masterful “Jailhouse Rock” tribute from Matthew Chappell and company. Chappell also soared in an impassioned “I Who Have Nothing.”
Slinky, leggy Brooke Aston, trailing a mile-long red feather boa, was electrifying in “Don Juan,” matter-of-factly telling her man who’d lost his fortune that “when your money’s gone, your baby’s gone.” And she knocked out of the ballpark the cheekily erotic “Some Cats Know.”
“Dance With Me (and we’ll be lovers when the music ends)” switched gears hilariously when determined Willie Illeana Kirven went after guys scared to death that she’d get them.
The four women did booming right by “I’m a Woman,” their feminist manifesto, and the whole company, led by Alonzo Richmond, brought the festivities toward a close with a heartfelt “Stand By Me.”
It was a nice touch when musical director Scott Bradley from his piano bench sang a soulful “Stay a While.” His splendid fellow musicians in the show produced by Bekki Jo Schneider were Darryel Cotton (drums), Mark McCulloch (bass), Jim Schweickart (guitar), and Tim Whalen (saxophone).
“Smokey Joe’s Café” runs through April 1. For tickets and information call 812-288-8281, toll free 877-898-8577, or www.derbydinner.com.
I just discovered a folder my Mom has been keeping of past reviews, so excpect more, but here is an article about Cinderella.
July 14, 2010 Derby Dinner's recreation of 'Cinderella' a winner Show runs through Aug. 15 By CHARLES WHALEY email@example.com
> SOUTHERN INDIANA — “Impossible for a plain yellow pumpkin to become a golden carriage,” sings the regal, sparkling fairy godmother (Brooke Aston) in Derby Dinner Playhouse’s winning re-creation of “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”
And yet right there on the theatre’s bare stage the amazing transformation takes place, drawing awe-struck applause as lovely young Cinderella (Kelly Sina), gorgeously gowned, appears as if by magic inside the coach.
Wizards are obviously at work in this enchanting favorite produced by Bekki Jo Schneider and directed by associate producer and scenic designer Lee Buckholz, aided immensely by Butch Sager’s dazzling costumes and Heather Paige Folsom’s clever choreography.
As often is done in this staged show, originally broadcast in 1957 and starring Julie Andrews in the songwriting team’s only musical written for television, Cinderella’s ugly (in more ways than one) stepsisters are played here by men in drag--Matthew Brennan as Joy with a grating horsy laugh and John T. Lynes as Grace with an annoying itch she can’t stop scratching. They’re hilarious bumbling klutzes, especially in their “Stepsisters Lament.”
Yet their mean witch of a mother (Melissa Combs), who treats docile stepdaughter Cinderella like an indentured servant, has the weird idea that she can palm one of them off to marry Prince Christopher (Tyler Bliss).
As everyone knows, however, only Cinderella’s foot fits the glass slipper she lost at the palace ball. That’s after the Prince and his wry steward (Cary Wiger) seek out every maiden in the kingdom to try it on.
As the King and Queen who worry that their romantically inclined son may never take a wife, John Payonk and Annette McCulloch pair delightfully as they sing “Boys and Girls Like You and Me.”
They also add their voices to son Christopher’s heartfelt paen to Cinderella, “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?,” after he and Cinderella have sung a charming “Ten Minutes Ago” duet.
Bliss and Sina are marvelous singers, and it is indeed “A Lovely Night” when happily ever after finally arrives.
“Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” runs at various times through Aug. 15.
• For tickets and information call (812) 288-8281 or visit www.derbydinner.com
Since the age of sixteen my adventures in music have taken me all over the country. After years of bouncing around I've made Orange County my home. Here are my stories.