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Like MTV for Mom
Actors Cabaret serves up hit singles
by Anna Grace
Courtesy of ace.
Having penned the soundtrack to the formative years of America’s baby boomers, songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller have been granted their own musical revue. Jailhouse Rock, Stand By Me, On Broadway: Of the 40 songs in this show, any citizen over 60 or classics-minded youth should be able to sing along with nearly all of them. Fortunately, singing along is specifically encouraged by director Joe Zingo.
To interpret these classic rock songs, Zingo cast what is, for the most part, a decidedly post-30s crowd. It’s nice to see experienced women rocking black leather and balding men belting out songs of young love. And when Smokey Joe’s veers towards the dorky, the mature actors sway happily with it, even while wearing a neon pink and orange argyle sweater.
Songs roll from one to the next, flipping from story to story, sock hoppers to soul-sick lovers. It’s like MTV for my mom. Thus the success of Smokey Joe’s Café rests on an actor’s ability to offer the audience a compelling slice of life in the briefest musical moment. Particularly adept at sharing a story through song are Justin Stafford, Michelle Sellers and Erica Jean.
Voices are strong but not even, and vocal director Mark Van Beever deserves a nod for holding actors of varying skill level together and keeping it soulful while keeping time with the pre-recorded music.
This show is what it is: a broad, energetic, comfortable musical revue. It’s not Shakespeare. It’s not even Georges Feydeau; it’s an early fall evening of big entertainment. Zingo presents Smokey Joe’s Cafe exactly as it was meant to be and succeeds in pulling audience members to their feet in an ovation as they genuinely appreciate a fresh interpretation of the songs of their youth. And inasmuch as our baby-boomers helped to desegregate the nation, demand an end to the Vietnam war and pioneer women’s equality — and roll through more economic setbacks than a Dutch tulip merchant — I think we can safely say they deserve a night out on the town at Actors Cabaret.
Smokey Joe’s Café runs through Oct. 30 at ACE. Tix at actorscabaret.org or 683-4368.