Live Shows Return To The Engeman Stage After A 19-Month Pandemic Hiatus
By jake Pellegrino
The John W. Engeman Theater at North-port reopened with a jubilant celebration of everything that makes live theater great on Thurs. Sept. 16 with its production of “Smokey Joe’s Café.”
A musical revue, “Smokey Joe’s Café” takes the audience on a journey back to the ’50s and ’60s and though there is no setting or plot, what makes the show special is that it makes you feel connected to the characters and the time period through its music.
Additionally, this creates a unifying theme of togetherness and community which is ap-propriate given that it this is the first live pro-duction at the Engeman in 19 months. Evident by the packed house on opening weekend, the community is ready to to enjoy live entertainment in person again.
Just nine cast members pull off impres-sive acrobatics and prop effects and belt out classic hits of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller like “Neighborhood,” “Kansas City,” “Poi-son Ivy,” “Don Juan,” “Yakety Yak,” “On Broadway,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Love Potion No. 9.” Their acrobatics are espe-cially representative in a scene where the cast transforms their bodies into a human bicycle.
Lieber and Stoller were well known as the songwriters for artists such as Elvis Presley, The Coasters, The Drifters and Ben E. King. The pair were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
The cast also shows off their range with some powerhouse performances like “Neighborhood,” performed by the entire company; “Poison Ivy” performed by Dev-inré Adams, Tasheim Ramsey Pack, Brian Maurice Kinnard and Christopher Bras-field; and softer melodic tunes like “Falling” sung by Alia Munsch, and “Some Cats Know” performed by Mars Storm Rucker.
The show’s production value also matches the high-energy music in the show. The colorful costumes are authentically representative of the time as is the backdrop set representing windowpanes lit up with LED screens.
“Smokey Joe’s Café” runs until Oct. 31. Tickets are available online at Engemantheater.com or call the box office at 631-261-2900.