Ford Centre for the Performing Arts

Smokey Joe's Cafe

Words and Music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

Until October 18th



by Ed Farolan

Livent's Smokey Joe's Cafe opened with a nostalgic note, particularly for the oldtimers like me who still remember these songs of the fifties and sixties.  But what got this Vancouver audience standing for a long ovation at the end of the opening night show was the presence of  Mike Stoller who, with Jerry Leiber, composed all these Rock 'n Roll songs that were popularized by all the big stars of that era:  Elvis Presley ("Hound Dog", "Loving You", "Jailhouse Rock"), Peggy Lee ( "Is that all there is?"), the Coasters ("Yakety Yak", "Smokey Joe's Cafe", "Teach me how ro Shimmy" etc.) and other singers.

There were 19 songs sung and danced in Act I, and 22 in Act II by thirteen musicians and singers/dancers alternating individually or in groups, depending on the songs.  The Shimmy was one of the favorites as well as Jailhouse Rock.  There was no dialogue; everything was just sung and dance.  There was a brief story line sung at Smokey Joe's Cafe, whereby the songs were somewhat interrelated.  But it wasn't a major story line that one would see in a musical like Phantom of the Opera or Showboat.  All these singers and dancers did was sing and dance, accompanied by a live orchestra on stage.

There were technical difficulties on opening night, however, which I'm sure would have been ironed out.  The sounds were either too loud, or on the other extreme, the microphones were not turned on cue, leaving the first few notes of the singers in limbo.

I wouldn't say this was a great and extraordinary show.  The company did their job, giving us a nostalgic look at how the fifties and sixties were indeed the turning point, the mother of all Rock 'n Roll music that followed in the decades to come.  It is educational, in a way, for this young generation , our children, who might want to discover the roots of contemporary music and dance.


Copyright 1998 Ed Farolan