The Theatre Guide – Smokey Joe’s Cafe – Theatre Review

Smokey Joe’s Cafe – John W. Engeman Theater – The Theatre Guide

September 22nd, 2021

By Jessica Kennedy.

The days are getting cooler, pumpkin spice is in the air, and live theater is back on Long Island! After over 500 days, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport opens its doors for its stunning rendition of Smokey Joe’s Cafe (September 16- October 31). This Grammy Award-winning and Tony Award- nominated musical revue is a wonderful way to welcome back excited theatergoers.

Directed and Choreographed by Deidre Goodwin, this musical revue- Broadway’s longest running- feels like the right way to celebrate the return to live theater. The program features 40 of the most iconic songs of the past century, including fan favorites like “Stand By Me,” “Charlie Brown,” and “On Broadway.” The line up of music lauds the songwriting of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, known for writing or co-writing over 70 chart hits, and for being inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1985.

While the show follows no particular pattern or plot, the effect of this musical experience is no less cohesive and magical. The cast of nine performers works synchronously and seamlessly to create a flow from rhythm to rhythm, mood to mood. The songs which spotlight a lead singer are often beautifully complimented by the other performers supplying harmony, dance, and even acrobatic assists if the song calls for a little Cirque de Soleil inspired choreography! While each song was beautiful and unique in its own right, viewers are bound to have their personal favorites. Group performance stand outs for me include “Searchin,” “I’m a Woman,” and “Teach Me How to Shimmy,” while Mars Rucker delivered a show-stoppingly awesome rendition of “Don Juan,” and Elizabeth Adabale’s “Fools Fall in Love” left me breathless. I’m also a sucker for a great duet, and Francesca Ferrari and Tasheim Pack certainly delivered a powerful one with “Love Me/Don’t.”

Everyone will have their own favorites, but anyone in the audience will agree- the 2021/2022 season at Engeman is opening with a hit!

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